Tags: ISIS/Islamic State | Iraq | Mosul | Christian monastery

Historic Monastery Threatened By ISIS After Christians Flee

Historic Monastery Threatened By ISIS After Christians Flee
Syrian Orthodox monastery of St Matthew or Deir Matti (in Arabic) located on Jabal Muqbal some 30 kms northeast of the city of Mosul. (Marwan Ibrahim/AFP/Getty Images)

Monday, 23 March 2015 09:41 AM

A historic Christian monastery in Iraq, where the monks still pray in the Aramaic language used by Jesus Christ, is in danger of being attacked by Islamic State militants who are entrenched just four miles away.

In a "60 Minutes" report on CBS, correspondent Lara Logan revealed that the ancient Monastery of St. Matthew on the outskirts of Mosul is still conducting daily prayers even though 125,000 Christians have been forced to flee the region from ISIS in the past year.

Father Joseph Ibrahim, one of seven monks remaining at the enormous mountainside monastery founded some 1,650 years ago, admits that he's afraid of "the unknown future."
Asked what he thought was going to happen to the monks and their home, he replied, "We don't know exactly, but we are expecting the worse."

Built in 363, the monastery has survived the Persian and Ottoman empires, Mongol invaders and Kurdish conquests, and now it's threatened by ISIS fighters who advanced toward St. Matthew's gates last summer soon after conquering Mosul, a city of 1.5 million people.

But "60 Minutes" reported that Kurdish soldiers pushed ISIS back to a nearby village where its notorious black flag can clearly be seen flying in the breeze.

Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf, one of 10,000 Christians who fled Mosul, now lives in the Kurdish capital of Erbil along with 60,000 other Christian refugees. Thousands more refugees are in camps along the Syrian border, also in the safe haven of Kurdistan, the semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq.

"They take everything from us, but they cannot take the God from our hearts, they cannot," said a tearful Sharaf, head of the Syriac Orthodox Church, adding that ISIS fighters were already inside Mosul when he escaped.

"I didn't have any time to take anything. I was told I had five minutes to go. I just took five books that are very old. I think they burn all the books. And we have books from the first century of the Christianity. From the beginning of Christianity, this is the first time we cannot pray in our churches."

The Nineveh Valley has been home to Christians since the first century after the crucifixion of Christ. Now the region is under a reign of terror from violent ISIS militants while Iraq and the United States consider joint plans to recapture the territory, and Mosul in particular.

As the Islamic State tries to obliterate Christianity and install a caliphate in the region, the terror group recently released  photographs showing the apparent destruction of the church at the monastery of Mar Gorgis near the city.

And "60 Minutes" reported that in the same manner that Nazis marked the property of Jews, Christian homes in Mosul have been marked with a red symbol, an Arabic letter N for Nasara, an early Islamic term for Christians.

ISIS extremists have even blown up a mosque, which was a site holy to Christians and Muslims alike, because the Old Testament prophet Jonah was purportedly buried inside.

Archbishop Bashar Warda, another Christian leader, told "60 Minutes" that Iraqis felt safer before dictator Sadaam Hussein was toppled, and denounced the U.S. for pulling out of the embattled Middle East country in 2011.

"I think American support was needed, needed forcefully," Wards said. "You cannot leave the country like this and tell them, 'Well, we've liberated you. We cannot do the job for you and we are walking away. This is your country, rule it.'"

Warda said that before Christians would be willing to return to their homes, the Islamic State must be eliminated. Logan asked him if that meant "defeating them militarily."

"Please God," he cried.

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A historic Christian monastery in Iraq, where the monks still pray in the Aramaic language used by Jesus Christ, is in danger of being attacked by Islamic State militants who are entrenched just four miles away.
Iraq, Mosul, Christian monastery
606
2015-41-23
Monday, 23 March 2015 09:41 AM
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