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ICC Note: The casualties of the conflict in Iraq are both human and historical. The massive loss of life and the impact on families driven from their homes is incalculable. Also, lost amidst this conflict are numerous historical sites and treasures. Monuments of cultures dating back thousands of years are destroyed in a moment. The Mar Matti monastery near Mosul is still standing, but that might not remain the case.

12/07/2015 Iraq (Stripes) – Iraqi Christians sheltering from the Islamic State at the Mar Matti monastery can see the lights of their former homes at night.

The 1,600-year-old refuge, near the summit of Mount Alfaf, is only about 10 miles from Mosul, which fell to the militants last year. Villages controlled by the extremists are even closer.

Mar Matti dates to the fourth century, when its namesake, St. Matthew, fled persecution by the Roman Empire for the Nineveh plains. He established a hermitage on Mount Alfaf, also known as Mount Maqlub, where he is said to have cured disease and converted Assyrians to Christianity.

Mar Matti’s treasures likely wouldn’t survive capture by the Islamic State. The militants have destroyed churches, monasteries and Christian symbols, smashed museum artifacts, burned ancient texts and blown up historical sites, including the 3,000-year-old ruins of Nimrud, throughout Iraq and Syria.

Until recently, Mar Matti was home to a large library of Syriac Christian manuscripts and the site of an annual festival that drew Christians from all over Iraq. The Associated Press has reported that the manuscripts, including an 1,100-year-old copy of the letters of St. Paul, have been spirited to an apartment in Dohuk for safekeeping.

In the days after Mosul fell to the Islamic State, Mar Matti sheltered hundreds of displaced Christians, but by October only a few families remained.

“They’ve gone to Irbil and Dohuk,” said Faris Sabah, 51, a truck driver from Mosul, who was still living at the monastery with his family.

Sabah lost his truck and business when he fled the city. Now he’s doing odd jobs around the monastery and planning to move his family “to a place where there are other Christians.”


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