Centuries-old Christian documents survive ISIS purge

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by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez
International News/screen capture
Islamic State radicals are intent on destroying any trace of religion or culture that does not reflect their Islamic views. In Mosul, these terrorists destroyed more than 8,000 rare books, manuscripts and other artifacts.
DOHUK, Iraq (Christian Examiner) — Nearly 100 historic Christian manuscripts, including 1,000-year-old handwritten duplications of the letters by the Apostle Paul, narrowly survived an ISIS advance in northern and western Iraq last year which sought to destroy artifacts of non-Islamic faiths, CBS News now reports.

The ancient works remain hidden in an ordinary Kurdish city apartment after having been spirited away from the library in a fourth century monastery where they had been kept before militants captured numerous territories in the region. The items include centuries old Bibles and commentaries largely written in a form of the Semitic Aramaic language called Syriac.

Ultimately, Sunni extremists were unable to reach the Syriac Orthodox Christians of Mar Mattai Monastery, the former home of the precious library materials. Kurdish peshmerga fighters successfully secured the road up the mountain that led to the religious community.

Before terrorists invaded the region, millions of visitors traveled to the monastery each year, according to the news source.

“Thank God they were unable to reach the monastery,” exclaimed Raad Abdul-Ahed, who helped relocate the library’s contents to the Kurdish city, in an interview with AP. “We will keep it here until the crisis is over, until the situation is stabilized,” he said.

“Each manuscript has its own spiritual value,” noted Saliba Shimon, the Syriac Orthodox archbishop for northern Iraq, who lives in the monastery after fleeing persecution and leaving his home outside of Mosul. “When we keep the manuscript, we are not doing it for the sake of its financial value, but rather because of its spiritual value.”

From Sunni Muslim shrines seen as idolatrous to Christian symbols, churches, monasteries and religious books, Islamic State forces have sought to destroy all evidence of artifacts unrelated to Islam. During the advance, Islamic extremists overran Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and burned more than 8,000 rare books in that city’s library.