ISIS Digs Up Bones of Martyred Christian Saint as Jihadis Bulldoze Ancient 1,600-Year-Old Monastery

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By Samuel Smith , CP Reporter
Frescos painted on the walls of Mar Elain Monastery in Syria seen in this undated photo.
The Islamic State terrorist group has released pictures and video purporting to show militants bulldozing a nearly 1,600-year-old Christian monastery, while a claim has been made that the jihadis have also dug up and desecrated the bones of a martyred Christian saint.

As Islamic State captured the Syrian town of al-Qaryatain in the Homs province and kidnapped over 230 Syriac Christians earlier this month in what was deemed ISIS’ biggest military advance since it took over the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra in May, it’s believed that some of the kidnapped Christians were taken from the town’s ancient Syriac Catholic Mar Elian Monastery.

This week, IS-affiliated social media accounts posted images and footage showing the destruction of the monastery, which was founded in the year 432 and was also the location where priest Jacques Mourad and a church volunteer was abducted in May.

The monastery was built on the spot believed to be where Saint Elian was killed by his father, a Roman officer, for refusing to renounce his faith in Jesus. Mourad had been working since 1991 to rebuild and restore the monastery.

According to the British news site the Express, one video posted online purports to show militants removing what are believed to be the bones of Saint Elian from a stone sarcophagus. However, that claim has not been verified and could just be speculation since IS has previously desecrated the tombs of other saints and prophets.

A Christian clergyman told The Associated Press that militants also demolished a church inside the monastery that dated back to the fifth century, while a resident from the town said the militants destroyed a shrine and removed church bells.

“It was an important pilgrimage site for the surrounding Christian community,” Nicholas al-Jeloo, a University of Melbourne expert on Assyrian monasteries in Iraq, told the International Business Times.

IS has made it a tradition to destroy ancient Christian monasteries in towns the group conquers.

Earlier this year, IS blew up parts of the Mar Behnam Monastery located in the Iraqi Christian town of Qaraqosh in the Nineveh Plains. In doing so, IS fighters posted photos showing the militants destroying the tomb complex of Saint Sarah and Saint Behnam, a fourth century Christian martyr revered Syriac churches.