Culture

Despite the threat of death, two Muslims saved Christian manuscripts from ISIS destruction

Iraq

Two young men from the Iraqi city of Mosul kept 800-year old Christian manuscripts belonging to the Chaldean Tahera Church safe from ISIS militants, despite the threat of death if they were caught.

In the city of Mosul in Iraq, two young Muslim men saved historic Christian manuscripts from being destroyed by ISIS despite the risk of being killed if caught with them.

The young men who lived near the Chaldean Tahera Church in the Shifa’a Neighbourhood on the bank of the Tigris River in west Mosul took two 800-year-old manuscripts from the Church to preserve them until the Church’s caretakers returned. Upon the return of Father Thabet, the faith leader at the church, the two young men returned the manuscripts to him.

“They hid them carefully throughout this period. Since these manuscripts are Christian, perhaps if ISIS militants found them, they would be punished,” said Father Thabet. “These various manuscripts are ancient and have been used for praying by many generations in the city of Mosul.”

The Chaldean Tahera Church, which sits next to the Nakeeb Mosque and the Bashatabya Castle, was looted and destroyed by ISIS when the group invaded Mosul in 2014.

Before ISIS’ invasion, the Tahera Church, which was first built in 650-651 AD, was a Christian centre for learning before being reconstructed into a church. “This church was a monastery for teaching. Later, the brothers in the Christian Endowment reconstructed, rehabilitated, and expanded it and turned it into an archdiocese,” said a man from Mosul.

The Tahera Church, which was initially called the Martyr Gabriel Monastery and later the Raised Monastery, became a pilgrimage destination for many Christians after being said to have contained relics of the Virgin Mary and Saint Gabriel of Beth Dustan, after whom the monastery was initially named. Historians who have visited Mosul have sung praises of the monastery due to its beautiful architecture and its raised location that towers over the Tigris River, providing its visitors with beautiful views of the city.

The “Lady of the Tigris” statue of the Virgin Mary stood atop the Church, before being destroyed by ISIS.

A picture of the Church after ISIS’ destruction. The pillar on which the “Lady of the Tigris” once stood can be seen on the right. 

The preservation of the Church’s manuscripts by the two Muslim men is a commendable act that shows the bond between the Christian and Muslim populations who have coexisted for hundreds of years in the city. Despite years of bigoted and hateful speech being spread by extremist groups in the country, Iraqis continue to show their unity and resilience against this type of rhetoric, which has brought nothing but destruction to the country.

The Iraqi Government and International Organisations should launch projects to rehabilitate the churches and mosques of the city of Mosul, which have long stood side-by-side as a sign of coexistence and peace in the historic city.

Iraqi Troops enter the Tahera Church after defeating ISIS in Mosul.

Historic image of the ruins of the Bashatabya Castle, which sits next to the Tahera Church. The image shows the raised location that the Church was built upon.