After 1600 Years, Monks Ejected From Mar Behnam by Islamists

Thomas L. McDonald
The Mar Behnam Monastery (The Monastery of the Martyrs Saint Behnam and his Sister Sarah) was built in the 4th century as an act of penance by Sennacherib II. The Assyrian king had Behnam and Sarah, his son and daughter, executed for converting to Christianity, but later converted and repented.

From that time until this month, the site in Bakhdida has been maintained and expanded by monks of the Syriac faith, which was brought into the Catholic Church in the 18th century.

That has all ended. The monks were visited by ISIS forces and simply thrown out, not even allowed to take their relics:

A member of the Syriac clergy quoted the militants as telling the monastery’s residents: “You have no place here any more, you have to leave immediately.”

He said the monks asked to be allowed to save some of the monastery’s relics but the fighters refused.

Local Christian residents told AFP news agency that the monks walked for several miles before they were picked up by Kurdish fighters.

Earlier this month, Isis issued an ultimatum in Mosul, citing a historic contract known as “dhimma,” under which non-Muslims in Islamic societies who refuse to convert are offered protection if they pay a fee, called a “jizya”.

And thus another deeply rooted feature of Middle Eastern Christianity–one present centuries before Mohammed–is yanked out root and branch by savages.