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Islamic State destroys oldest Christian monastery

Wed 20 Jan 2016
By Hannah Tooley

A Christian group working in the Middle East said it is "devastating" that Iraq's oldest monastery has been destroyed.

On Wednesday satellite photos have confirmed fears that the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq has been destroyed by Islamic State.

Miles Windsor, advocacy and development officer at Middle East Concern, told Premier's News Hour it is more than just a building. He said: "It would be easy, and possibly a bit glib for me to say these things are just bricks and mortar.

"[It's] part of the identity of the Christian heritage of Iraq, this erasing of the past of Iraq does have an impact on the psychology of Christians in the country.

"There's been problems before and whilst this is a dark period in Iraq's history, actually we believe that our God is greater than IS and that Christianity will last beyond it."

St Elijah's Monastery stood as a place of worship for 1,400 years, and was most recently used by US troops.

Although the roof was largely missing, it had 26 distinctive rooms including a sanctuary and chapel.

The demolition itself is said to have taken place at some point between August and September 2014.

Satellite imagery firm DigitalGlobe used a high resolution camera to take photos of the site, imagery analyst Stephen Wood, CEO of Allsource Analysis said photos showed "the stone walls have been literally pulverised."

Catholic priest Revd Paul Thabit Habib has also been expressing his dismay. "Our Christian history in Mosul is being barbarically levelled," he said.

"We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land."

Roman Catholic Army chaplain Jeffrey Whorton, who celebrated Mass on the monastery's altar said: "Why we treat each other like this is beyond me.

"Elijah the prophet must be weeping."

Listen to Premier's Hannah Tooley speak Miles Windsor here:

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