The oldest Christian monastery in Iraq has been destroyed by ISIS, satellite images confirmed.
St. Elijah’s monastery, or Dair Mar Elia, stood on a hill near the northern city of Mosul for 1,400 years.
Now, St. Elijah’s has joined a growing list of more than 100 demolished religious and historic sites, including mosques, tombs, shrines and churches in Syria and Iraq. The extremists have defaced or ruined ancient monuments in Nineveh, Palmyra and Hatra. Museums and libraries have been looted, books burned, artwork crushed – or trafficked.
Analysts said the images, obtained by the Associated Press, suggested St. Elijah’s had been demolished in late 2014, soon after ISIS seized Mosul.
A Catholic priest from Mosul warned that its Christian history was “being barbarically leveled”.
“We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land,” said Father Paul Thabit Habib, who now lives in Kurdish-administered Irbil.
ISIS has targeted Christians in Iraq and neighboring Syria, seizing their property and forcing them to convert to Islam, pay a special tax or flee.
The group has also demolished a number of monasteries and churches, as well as renowned pre-Islamic sites including Nimrud, Hatra and Nineveh in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria.
St. Elijah’s Monastery was believed to have been constructed by Assyrian monks in the late 6th Century. It was later claimed by a Chaldean Catholic order.
In 1743, its monks were given an ultimatum by Persian forces to convert to Islam. They refused and as many as 150 were massacred.