ISIS bombs historic Christian monastery in Iraq

ISIS militants first took over the church in July, 2014, storming the monastery and expelling its monks.

March 22, 2015 16:36
1 minute read.

Militants blow up 4th-century Christian Mar Behnam monastery near Mosul.. (photo credit: TWITTER)

Islamic State militants have reportedly destroyed the ancient Christian Mar Behnam Monastery in the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh in northern Iraq on Thursday.

The destroyed monastery dates back to the fourth century and is known to contain one of the most valuable Syrian libraries in Iraq. Images of the destruction of the Christian holy site were released by Islamic State media this past week, but it is unclear when the actual bombings occurred. 

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The photos show bombings of both the tomb complex of Saint Behnam and of Saint Sarah, two saints who were converted to Christianity by Saint Matthew. The two saints were the children of Iraqi Assyrian ruler Sennacherib, who killed his children after realizing they had converted from paganism. Sennacherib is said to have converted to Christianity on his deathbed.

The church contained intricate decorations and features, such as Syriac and Armenian carvings. The main church structure dates back to the 14th century. It is a place of pilgrimage for Christians in the Middle East for its links to Assyrian and Syriac heritage, and because it is one of the most richly carved and artistic monasteries in northern Mesopotamia.

ISIS militants first took over the church in July, 2014, when they stormed the monastery and expelled its monks, forcing them to leave the premises The militants allowed the monks to carry some of the monastery's relics with them when they left.

The destruction of the monastery comes just a week after photos were released by ISIS militants showing the destruction of relics in the George Chaldean Catholic Monastery near Mosul. The Islamic State has previously vowed that they will destroy all Christian historical sites in the regions that fall under their control.

ISIS destroyed Jonah's tomb in Mosul, Iraq in July and destroyed countless Assyrian artifacts in Nimrod this March. The jihadist organization believes that Christian relics represent both a polytheistic and idolatrous religion, and thus, are an assault on Islam.

In February the Islamic State decapitated 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya, and last month, the militant group kidnapped over 220 Assyrian Christians. Due to Islamic State violence in both Iraq and Syria, thousands of Christians have fled their homes in fear and are living as displaced persons in the surrounding region.sign up to our newsletter

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