08/22/2019 Iraq (International Christian Concern) – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has pledged $50 million to UNESCO for the purpose of restoring holy and cultural sites in Mosul, an Iraqi city where Islamic State (ISIS) militants established their so-called caliphate. This pledge includes funds intended for the restoration of the al-Sa’a and al-Tahra churches, both of which were destroyed by ISIS.
The pledge comes at a notable moment in both the Iraqi and UAE context. From the Iraqi perspective, reconstruction in Mosul has barely been achieved thanks to financial corruption, competing interest groups and militias, and a lack of security. Christians remain adamant that their preference is to avoid Mosul, since the city was the source of the genocide waged against them. Financial corruption of reconstruction funds is also a dominant topic within the Mosul context, as it is largely blamed for a lack of infrastructure development.
Within the UAE context, the pledge follows a papal visit to the country this past February. This was the first time that a pope has ever visited the Arabian Peninsula. The UAE was held up as a model of religious freedom in the Arab world. However, it is worth noting that the UAE has only ever made attempts to demonstrate religious tolerance in regards to expats and foreigners. The UAE may be funding churches in Iraq, but within the UAE, building new churches is extremely difficult. Public practice of faith is discouraged by a legal system that seeks to keep Christian expats and Muslim citizens separate.
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