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Iraq’s Mar Behnam monastery: Rebuilding what ISIS could not destroy

For over 1,700 years Christians have been the indisputable sons of Iraq. Contrary to the wild imaginings of ISIS, their presence largely preceded the Islamic conquest. Christians, who were evangelized very early on by St. Thomas, set about forming a church straight away. One of these early Christians was Mar Behnam, a legendary saint who was one of the first Assyrian princes to convert to Christ. He initiated his people in the teachings of Jesus before being martyred by his own father. For centuries Catholic Syriac monks have been the loyal guardians of Mar Behnam’s grave, up until the invasion of the Islamic State in 2014. In the past two years the Jihadists took over the monastery as their headquarters which has – as a fortunate consequence – allowed the site to be preserved.

However, all the Christian symbols have been beaten, broken, and removed. All the inscriptions in Syriac or in Aramaic have been deliberately scratched off. “Daesh [ISIS] has destroyed anything that could resemble a cross” confirms Faraj-Benoît Camurat, president of Fraternity in Iraq. Even the faces of the monks, legendary saints, and innocent animals have been chipped away. ISIS, in its iconoclastic madness, wanted to eradicate the symbols of any Christian presence in Iraq, doing away with its past, a well-known totalitarian refrain.

Read more at Aleteia. 

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