Thursday, June 04, 2015

St. Matthew's Monastery in danger from ISIS

ANOTHER ANCIENT SITE IN PERIL: Monks won't leave ancient monastery amid ISIL threat (Sheren Khalel and Matthew Vickery, USA Today).
Situated on the side of Mount Al-Faf in North Iraq's Nineveh Plains, St. Matthew's Monastery is recognized as one of the oldest Christian monasteries in Iraq. Today, the beige stone structure looks down on the rolling hills of one of Iraq's most active front lines against the Islamic State, less than four miles away.

The horizon is spotted with pluming towers of white and black smoke from U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and heavy artillery fire. From this front line, Islamic State territory stretches back to Mosul, the group's largest Iraqi stronghold.

The proximity of the Islamic State to St. Matthew's means the monastery is constantly at risk. The extremist group is known for destroying churches, museums and other culturally and historically significant sites.


While monks at the monastery say they are confident God and the Peshmerga forces will protect the site, they have removed their most precious relics, including centuries-old Christian manuscripts. The tomb of the monastery's namesake, St. Matthew, lies empty – the bones have been moved north into the relatively safe territory of the Kurdish Regional Government.

This article was published on 27 May. I can't find any more recent updates on the Monastery's situation.