In Iraq, Christians are fleeing for their lives. The ancient manuscripts are also in peril.
Phillip Jenkins writes: “The fall of Christian Mosul loomed in the beginning of the 20th century. Kurdish raids and bandit attacks repeatedly hit the monasteries and devastated their libraries. During World War I, the Ottoman Turks inflicted on local Christians the same attempted genocide they directed against the Armenians. By the 1920s, the once transcontinental Church of the East was reduced to about 40,000 survivors in the Mosul area…. The population included Assyrians, Catholic Chaldeans, Syrian Orthodox, and Orthodox Arabs, who hoped to benefit from the state secularism promised by Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath regime. If their ancient glories were long past, they hoped to remain unmolested in the land of the prophet Jonah and of the great patriarchs and abbots.The Ba’ath regime was shaken by the 1991 Gulf War and then overthrown in the 2003 invasion led by the United States, which brought Islamist resistance to the fore. The ISIS campaign will presumably spell the end of a Christian presence. We often read of the birth and growth of churches, very rarely of their deaths. In Mosul, however, we may be seeing the end of an astounding example of Christian continuity that lasted nearly two millennial.”
First, we learn some facts about on of the great monasteries of the area…St. Matthews.
History of St. Matthews: “Located north of Mosul, St. Matthew’s Monastery—commonly known as Dayr Sheikh Matti—is perhaps the most ancient religious institution in Iraq. Although the Syriac life story of St. Matthew was published together with that of St. Behnam by Paul Bedjan in 1891, and translated into Arabic by Elias Behnam, this present account is more extensive and informative. It includes in-depth physical and spiritual descriptions of the monastery as an outstanding institution which played a significant role in the history of the Syrian Orthodox Church of the East. Mar Ignatius Jacob III offers insight into the monastery’s learned superiors, metropolitans and magnificent library. The monastery was a Seat of the Maphrianate of the East rivaling that of Takrit as a center of Syriac Christianity. The Patriarch laments adversities brought upon the monastery by the marauding Kurds who attacked it, killing monks and looting belongings including the monastery’s invaluable manuscripts. Not until the nineteenth century did some metropolitans retrieve it from the Kurds. Still, the attacks continued. In modern times, as monasticism has declined, the monastery has become more an attraction for summer vacationers than a place of retreat. Today St. Matthew’s Monastery remains a monumental Christian historical legacy revered by both Christians and Muslims of Iraq and neighboring countries. It is also held with great reverence by Western scholars since the most famous thirteenth-century Syrian writer, Bar Hebraeus, was buried there. ” by Ignatius Yacoub III Book available
60 minutes has given us an amazing view of what is happening there today.
CLICK TO WATCH VIDEO (enlarge picture for best viewing)
60 Minutes PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS interview of Christians from St. Matthews.