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ICC Note: The history of Christianity in Iraq is one that has witnessed conflict for centuries. Yet, even for those who are well acquainted with suffering, the attacks by Islamic extremists currently taking place are among the worst in history. Christianity is at risk of being driven entirely out of lands that it has had a presence in for nearly 2,000 years.

09/13/2015 Iraq (CBS News) There are few places on earth where Christianity is as old as it is in Iraq. Christians there trace their history to the first century apostles. But today, their existence has been threatened by the terrorist group that calls itself Islamic State. More than 125,000 Christians — men, women and children — have been forced from their homes over the past year.

The Islamic State — or ISIS — stormed into Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, just over a year ago and took control. From there, it pushed into the neighboring villages and towns across this region, known as the Nineveh Plains, a vast area that’s been home to Christians since the first century after Christ. As we first reported in March, much of what took almost 2,000 years to build has been lost in a matter of months.
On the side of a mountain, overlooking the Nineveh Plains of ancient Mesopotamia, is the Monastery of St. Matthew. It’s one of the oldest on earth.
The voices of its monks have echoed here since the fourth century, uttering prayers that have not changed.
Lara Logan: You do the service in Aramaic?
Father Joseph Ibrahim: Yes.
Lara Logan: Which was the language of Jesus.
Father Joseph Ibrahim: Yes.
Lara Logan: Are you among the last people on earth to speak this language?
Father Joseph Ibrahim: We think so because we kept this language through the language of prayers.
Prayers through centuries of persecution. Father Joseph Ibrahim is one of only seven monks left here. He told us the monastery was founded in 363, and has survived the Persian and Ottoman empires, Mongol invaders and Kurdish conquests. Today, it’s threatened by the Islamic State, whose fighters advanced towards St. Matthew’s gates shortly after taking Mosul last summer. Kurdish soldiers pushed them back to this village where their flag still flies only four miles from the monastery.

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