ISIS has destroyed Iraq’s oldest Christian monastery. Satellite imagery confirms the jihadist group reduced the 1,400-year-old sacred site to rubble.
The oldest Christian monastery in Iraq, which had withstood the test of time for more than 1,400 years, has been completely destroyed by ISIS militants, revealed satellite images released on Wednesday by the Associated Press. The site where the St. Elijah’s Monastery used to stand on a hill above Mosul is now a debris-laden barren land. Mosul is one of the many regions under the control of the Islamic terror group, which is hellbent on imposing its radical Sharia law.
ISIS destroys Iraq's oldest Christian monastery. 1400 years of faith erased. (Photo ctsy: AP) pic.twitter.com/clty89SrBp— Varney & Co. (@Varneyco) January 20, 2016
The monastery that had survived as a place of Christian worship predates Islam. Despite the numerous previous conflicts in the war torn country, the one-and-a-half-millennia-old sacred site had only suffered superficial damage, reported the Independent. The monastery is yet another victim of the terror’s group’s targeted destruction of historic and heritage sites it strongly considers heretical. The historically significant and partially restored 27,000-square-foot monastery had 26 distinct rooms, including a sanctuary and chapel. The fourth century Greek “Chi-Rho” symbol, representing the name of Christ that was carved into its right gatepost, used to be clearly visible.
Before the regional wars, generations of monks regularly tucked candles in the nooks and crevices, prayed in the chapel, and worshipped at the altar. In fact, the sacred site was used as a place of quiet solitude and worship by the U.S. forces stationed in Iraq before the region was captured by ISIS. Regional historians had feared that ISIS would eventually destroy the Christian monastery, just as it had destroyed other sacred sites in the recent past. They fear that such terror tactics and wanton destruction are an indirect way to rid the land of other religions.
Confirming the destruction, Iraq-based Catholic priest Rev Paul Thabit Habib said, “Our Christian history in Mosul is being barbarically leveled. We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land.”
Incidentally, the demolition of the Christian monastery may have taken place sometime between August and September 2014, but since any news from the region is heavily censored and delayed, it is only now that the confirmation of the act has come through. ISIS had taken control of the region in June that year and had immediately begun tearing apart such shrines. The group even forced hundreds of thousands of Christians out of the region. These people had peacefully resided in Iraq ever since the birth of Christianity over 2,000 years ago.
St. Elijah’s has joined a worryingly growing list of more than 100 demolished religious and historic sites, including mosques, tombs, shrines, and churches in Syria and Iraq, reported the Daily Mail. It has also ruined ancient monuments in Nineveh, Palmyra, and Hatra. Besides defacing these priceless monuments, the group has looted museums and libraries, crushing any artwork found within. While almost all books the group comes across are incinerated, some of the artifacts are brazenly sold in black markets to make a quick buck.
Images indicate the terror group might have used heavy machinery and explosives to destroy the Christian monastery. No stranger to bringing down buildings, ISIS regularly uses bulldozers, sledgehammers, and all types of explosives. Ever since its reign of terror began in early 2013, ISIS has steadily wiped out shrines of multiple religions, including other sects within Islam. Under the radical interpretation of Islam, ISIS believes any shrines are idolatrous. Islam doesn’t believe in idol worship, but learned scholars do not entertain the notion of such destruction.
ISIS has gone on a rampage and killed about 19,000 innocent civilians and displaced more than three million within few short years of its forceful occupation of the land.
[Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images]