The Islamic State just bulldozed St. Elijah’s Monastery, the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq, which has survived every other assault for 1,400 years until now.
ISIS took out the location with bulldozers, sledgehammers and perhaps even explosives.
Located in Mosul, the monastery has been used as a place of worship by U.S. troop. It features two Greek letters, chi and rho, which stand for letters in Christ’s name, signifying the importance of the site, The Associated Press reports.
“I can’t describe my sadness,” Rev. Paul Thabit Habib, who currently lives in Irbil, told The Associated Press. “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.”
Satellite imagery firm confirmed the facility’s destruction and passed the information over to The Associated Press. The U.S. military had previously restored the place of worship, during earlier years in the Iraq War.
The destruction of the monastery is the latest example of a long-standing ISIS campaign to wipe out all traces of Christian heritage in the region. ISIS doesn’t just go after cultural artifacts and buildings, but the group also is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Christians, who have lived in the area for 2,000 years.
[dcquiz] Observers who have now fled have desperately tried to find out what happened to the monastery. In June 2014, ISIS took Mosul by storm and cut links to the outside world.
St. Elijah’s isn’t the only place of worship destroyed. ISIS has reduced over 100 religious and cultural buildings to rubble.
“Oh no way. It’s just razed completely,” Suzanne Bott, who formerly served with the State Department in order to restore St. Elijah’s, told The Associated Press while tearing up. “What we lose is a very tangible reminder of the roots of a religion.”
Life in Mosul for Christians has been brutal. When ISIS moved into Mosul, Christians had three choices: convert, flee or die. Many have decided to convert to Islam, as they are too poor to flee.
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