Mosul’s second Christmas after its liberation from the Islamic State is a far cry from its past celebrations — the few churches that have been repaired remain empty.
Father John Botros Moshi — the Syriac Catholic archbishop of Mosul, Kirkuk and the Kurdistan Region — stands among the rubble of the Tahra Church in Mosul, Iraq, April 29, 2018.
MOSUL, Iraq — Christmas remains a sad affair in Mosul, a city that once hosted a lively Christian community, even two years after its liberation from the Islamic State (IS).
This is largely because most of the Christians who fled five years ago have not come back and few churches have been renovated to bring back the Christmas spirit of the past, Samer Elias, a Christian Iraqi researcher and writer, told Al-Monitor.
Elias’ book, “Mosul Churches, History and Pain,” which was published in November, documents how Mosul’s churches and other Christian heritage sites were destroyed by IS. Elias calls on the Iraqi authorities to allocate more financial resources for the restoration and reconstruction of these churches, pointing out that the current process is very slow.
“Only one church has been rebuilt in Mosul — the Chaldean Church of St. Paul in al-Muhandisin district. The reconstruction was financed by the Chaldean Patriarchate, in cooperation with an Italian institution. UNESCO is currently working on the construction of two churches in the western part of Mosul — the Dominican Fathers Church known as the Our Lady of the Hour Church, and the Syriac Immaculate Church,” Elias said.
But even the recently renovated Chaldean Church of St. Paul remains deserted during the festive season, as most of the Christian community still has not returned to Mosul.
The head of the Gilgamesh Center for Antiquities and Heritage Protection in Mosul, Faisal Jaber, told Al-Monitor that the Christians are hesitant to return because of the security situation. “Just the reconstruction of churches with no guarantee of stability is not persuading the Christians to return,” he said.
Jaber expressed concern about the current government’s policies toward the Christian heritage in general and misappropriation of Christian property in particular. He gave as an example the case of the Organized Crime Directorate at the Ministry of Interior’s intelligence service that uses Al-Nasr nunnery and neighboring monasteries as their headquarters.
He believes that the use of a religious site by a government security service without paying the owners rent further strengthens the fears of the Christian community that “the IS ideology” is dominant and the Christians are still a vulnerable minority.
Elias also spoke of other practices that cause both anger and anxiety among Christians, such as using destroyed churches as waste dumps or holding concerts there — both considered as unrespecful to the sanctity of places of worship.
In addition, the Christian church authorities do not give a single, unified message to the Christians on whether they can return.
Elias noted, “The Chaldean Church encourages the immediate return of Christians to Mosul, while the Syriac Orthodox community is calling for international guarantees for the return of Christians. Meanwhile the Syriac Catholic community — mostly based outside Mosul in the Ninevah valley — has largely responded to the demands of return.”
Christian leaders are aware of the complex situation and say they face repetitive questions by their community on whether it is safe to return. “Today we are all called to have a deep spiritual reading of the prophets’ texts and words, to discover the rich meaning in our faith and [to gain strength from what] we went through during IS’ occupation of our towns in August 2014. … Our homes were destroyed and we were displaced. We lived for over 3½ years in camps away from our towns. The towns were liberated in 2017 and the reconstruction process has begun, although it is a bumpy road filled with challenges,” Cardinal Mar Luis Rafael I Sacco told Al-Monitor.
Though he tries to motivate Christians to use the spiritual experience in the Old Testament to find strength, Sacco said he understood the hesitation to return. “The church cannot overlook the extent of the human suffering the displaced have gone through during the time of their displacement,” he noted.
On the political level, the cardinal expressed belief that the issue of return requires “a political consensus between the countries of the region and the central government as well as the Kurdistan Region.”
“Any demographic change is not acceptable because our properties and homes are neither for acquisition nor for sale,” he added.
Christians have come to realize that their return is a challenge that cannot be faced alone and requires coexistence with other communities in the region.
Based on this, the head of the Department of Endowments in the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs in the Kurdistan Region, Khaled al-Bir, stressed the need to preserve all religious heritage sites without any discrimination.
“The lack of financial resources for the reconstruction of the Ninevah churches is the first obstacle down this path. Therefore we seek assistance from international organizations and churches. The area is also home to other religious and ethnic minorities. We may be fortunate to receive aid for the reconstruction of churches, and therefore we ought to be wise enough to develop an approach for the reconstruction of the diverse religious heritage in the area, including the Islamic and Yazidi heritage sites that have also been destroyed,” Bir said.
This approach holds an important message, as it reveals that the rebuilding of churches is an integral part of the process to rebuild trust between Christians and the various components of the city. This also requires raising awareness among the city’s Muslim community about the importance of Mosul’s religious heritage, which is not associated with Christians alone.
The University of Cape Town campus. Photo: Adrian Frith via Wikimedia Commons.
The University of Cape Town, the top-ranking academic institution in Africa, is set to consider enforcing an academic boycott against Israel later this month.
The UCT Senate, a decision-making body comprised primarily of professors and administrators, endorsed a proposal on March 15 to bar the university from entering into any formal relationship with Israeli academic institutions that operate “in the occupied Palestinian territories,” or otherwise enable “gross human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories,” the university said in a statement.
The campus of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
JNS.org – Students at Brown University voted overwhelmingly in favor of a referendum held between Tuesday and Thursday, calling on the school to separate itself from companies that conduct business with the State of Israel.
The tally was 69 percent in favor and 31 percent against.
Members of the pro-Israel community nationally and locally condemned the outcome.
“For the sake of My servant Yaakov, Yisrael My chosen one, I call you by name, I hail you by title, though you have not known Me.” Isaiah 45:4 (The Israel Bible™)
Many have seen similarities between the Biblical King Cyrus and President Donald Trump. (Breaking Israel News)
After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!
Many are claiming this was a pre-election gift to Trump’s friend, Netanyahu, but it others see a much larger significance that transcends politics and enters into the realm of the Biblical. One such belief was expressed by Breaking Israel News publisher Rabbi Tuly Weisz, who noted that the announcement came on the Jewish holiday of Purim.
“The same days on which the Yehudim enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.” Esther 9:22 (The Israel Bible™)
If there was ever a quintessentially Jewish holiday, it’s Purim, when the Jewish people were threatened by Haman, a descendant of Amalek, and saved by God’s hidden hand. Even so, we find examples of people from the Nations being inspired by the story of Purim and even gathering to mark the day alongside the Jewish people.
Protesters waving Turkish and Palestinian flags shout anti-Israel slogans during a demonstration in Amsterdam June 4, 2010. Israel’s raid of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla has set off a diplomatic furor, drawing criticism from friends and foes alike and straining ties with regional ally Turkey, which cal. (photo credit: REUTERS)
AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Demonstrators carrying Palestinian flags turned their backs on a Dutch chief rabbi during his eulogy at a vigil for Muslims killed in New Zealand.
The incident Sunday happened as Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs was discussing the meaning of a minute of silence at the gathering at the Dam Square World War II memorial monument. Thousands of people, many of them Muslims, gathered at the square to commemorate the 49 people slain Friday by a far-right killer at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Hamas is now accusing the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah of exploiting the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip to call on Palestinians to overthrow the Hamas regime. Fatah, for its part, is accusing the “dark forces” of Hamas of acting on orders from outside parties to establish a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.
The US administration says it will publish its long-awaited plan for peace in the Middle East, known as the “Deal of the Century,” after the general elections in Israel on April 9
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When the FBI informs us that parents are ready to spend up to $6.5 million in bribes to get their children into prestige colleges, it seemingly implies that all is very, very well in the American university. But Warren Treadgold tells us that’s an illusion.
He’s a distinguished professor of Byzantine history at St. Louis University who has also taught at Berkeley, FIU, Hillsdale, Stanford, and UCLA. Having entered college in 1967, he draws on long experience to both indict and offer a remedy of the most thoroughly left-wing major institution in America. His book, The University We Need (Encounter, 2018) presents its case with insight and a light touch.
The threat posed by Hezbollah and Ali Musa Daqduq, a senior operative in Hezbollah, was unmasked by Israel on Wednesday.
Daqduq was responsible for the “abduction and execution of five American servicemen in Iraq in 2007,” the IDF said. The role of Hezbollah members in neighboring states is an illustration of how groups allied with Iran are continuing to build a web linking Tehran to Beirut via a “road to the sea” that transits Iraq and Syria.
According to the IDF, the role of Daqduq includes establishing terror cells in Iraq to fight the US in 2006, stints training in Lebanon in 2013-2018 and now putting down roots in Syria.
Every few weeks, some political or national figure demands a national conversation about race. (Most recently, Senator Kamala Harris insisted, “We have not had these honest discussions about race.”)
What does a conversation about race mean? Invariably, an indictment of the fundamental unfairness of our country, the historical roots of racism in white supremacy, and the national guilt of white people.
Or, to put it more simply, why Senator Kamala Harris deserves to be in the White House.
We don’t have national conversations about anti-Semitism because the problem can’t be narrowed down to an easily blamed demographic. The Democrats invariably try to blame anti-Semitism on the usual suspects, white male Republicans living more than two hundred miles from a Starbucks, but the largest toll of violent anti-Semitic attacks tend to fall on New York City’s black neighborhoods.