Islamic State destroys Iraq’s oldest Christian monastery

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Mosul: St. Elijah’s monastery known to be the oldest Christian monastery that stood for almost 1400 years is said to have been destroyed by Islamic State. The monastery is known for its importance to local Christians who visited there to celebrate the feast of Prophet Elijah. The monastery also served as a base for US army after their invasion of Iraq.

Recent satellite images obtained by the Associated Press showed a demolished monastery building but analysts argue that the demolition probably took place in the late 2014 when ISIS initially took control of the area.

A Catholic priest from Mosul warned that its Christian history was “being barbarically levelled”. “We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land,” said Father Paul Thabit Habib, who now lives in Kurdish-administered Irbil. He further went on to say that “The monastery became a spiritual place for Christians to visit and to have religious ceremonies, and to ask forgiveness from the saint who founded this monastery”. “The monastery attracted all the people from Mosul – Christians and Muslims. All the poets, historians and travellers wrote about this monastery,” he added. “It became a very important place for the history of the Church in Iraq.”

Since the occupation of Mosul, ISIS has driven out Christians and Yazidis from their homes in Mosul and taken a hammer to ancient artifacts, destroying many historical buildings eliminating any traces of any other religion except Islam. The jihadists have released videos from time to time showing their men at work destroying churches, shrines and antiquities with dynamite and sledgehammers.