Tuesday 6 December 2016

Isil demolishes 1,400-year-old Christian monastery outside Mosul

Jean Dunwood in Beirut

Published 21/01/2016 | 02:30

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, Iraq.
A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, Iraq.

The oldest Christian monastery in Iraq has been reduced to a field of rubble, yet another victim of Isil's relentless destruction of sites it considers heretical.

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St Elijah's Monastery stood as a place of worship for 1,400 years, including most recently for US troops.

In earlier millennia, generations of monks tucked candles in the niches, prayed in the chapel, worshipped at the altar. The Greek letters chi and rho, representing the first two letters of Christ's name, were carved near the entrance.

This month, satellite imagery firm DigitalGlobe took photographs of the site and compared them to earlier images of the same spot.

Before it was razed, a partially restored, 27,000-square-foot stone and mortar building stood fortresslike on a hill above Mosul. Although the roof was largely missing, it had 26 distinctive rooms including a sanctuary and chapel.

One month later, photographs show "that the stone walls have been literally pulverised," said imagery analyst Stephen Wood, who pinpointed the destruction between August and September 2014. "Bulldozers, heavy equipment, sledgehammers, possibly explosives turned those stone walls into this field of grey-white dust. They destroyed it completely," he said.

"Our Christian history in Mosul is being barbarically levelled," said Catholic priest Rev Paul Thabit Habib in Erbil, Iraq.

"We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land."

Irish Independent

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