Sunday, June 22, 2014

Iraq | Turkey | Syriac Christians

In an earlier post about the Mor Behnam and Mort Sara Church in Mardin I mentioned that St. Mathai (Matthew) Monastery, located on Mount Alfaf, a mountain looming above the Nineveh plain about eighteen miles north of current-day Mosul in Iraq:
The grateful Sennacherib later donated land near the south summit of Mt. Alfaf to Mathai. In 363 Mathai founded a monastery on the site. This monastery, named after Mor Mathai, eventually became famous for its Scriptorium, which contained an extensive collection of Syriac Christian manuscripts. From the eleventh through nineteenth centuries the monastery was looted numerous times by Kurds who lived in the area, but it still exists to this day. Each September 14th Christians of various Eastern (non-Chalcedonian) sects would meet at the monastery to commemorate the day of Mor Mathai’s death. Whether this tradition still exists in the unsettled conditions of modern-day Iraq is unclear. Mor Mathai’s original hermitage, where he first met with Behnam, is also said to still exist.
Now the monastery has become a haven for Christians fleeing from the ISIS Takeover Of Mosul. See Christians From Mosul Seek Refuge In Ancient Monastery in Iraq:
Perched on a rocky, sand-colored mountain dotted with green shrubs and ancient caves, the Monastery of St. Matthew was a sanctuary for some of the earliest Christians. With the fall of nearby Mosul to Islamic extremists, its thick 4th-century walls again are a refuge. Christian families, who fled Iraq's second largest city, fill courtyard rooms normally used by monks and pilgrims. Children play on the steps while women help a male cook in the monastery's kitchen; others hang washed clothes in the scorching heat as a church bell peals. Men sit in the shade, drinking tea and smoking cigarettes, worrying about their families. Everyone follows the news, trying to learn what their fate may be. 
 If northern Mesopotamian does become the heart of a new Caliphate, as many are predicting, the fate of the Christians living there looks grim. I earlier posted about The City Of Midyat. I have since learned that a refugee camp for Syriac Christians fleeing the violence in Syria has been set up on the outskirts of the city. See Syria's Assyrian Christians Find Refuge With Turkish Neighbours.

Chingis Khan’s grandson Khülegü Sacked Baghdad and killed the last Abbasid Caliph in 1258. Are we now looking at a new Caliphate based in northern Mesopotamia or perhaps even in Damascus or Baghdad? It would be ironic if George W. Bush, who Iraqi Ruler Saddam Hussein once called the Khülegü Of This Age, has inadvertently brought about the rise of this new Caliphate by Destabilizing Iraq.
Which one is Khülegü?
I might add that Khülegü was rather tolerant of the Christians living in Mesopotamia, perhaps because his mother, the inimitable Sorqaqtani, was a Christian herself. 


  1. Duck! It's Cheney on the horizon, leading a caravan of ISIS warriors to take over the oil fields. We know what a bad shot he is.

  2. See IN RARE CONSENSUS, SUNNIS AND SHIITES TELL CHENEY TO SHUT UP: “Historically, it’s been challenging to find anything that Sunnis and Shiites agree on,” said Sabah al-Alousi, a history professor at the University of Baghdad. “That’s why their apparent consensus that Dick Cheney needs to shut the hell up is so significant.”

  3. I don't believe that "Caliphate" nonsense. This is all retaliation for what has happened to the Sunnis in Iraq since 2003. And, it's understandable that Sunnis are upset, given the atrocious level of violence that they have seen at the hands of the Iraqi government since 2003.

    This doesn't mean that the Christians won't get caught in the middle, though, as they have been in every single dispute between Muslim sects in Syria and Iraq. Iraqi Christians have been fleeing violence in droves since 2003. Until these recent events, the northern part of Iraq was somewhat less violent and more stable than the central and southern parts of Iraq, where the sectarian battles have been fiercest. Now that the north of Iraq is becoming a sectarian battleground, the Christians there are feeling the threat of violence, once again. Who wants to get caught in a battle between sects, especially given how well-armed they are?

    -a mes

  4. I should have also included the U.S. government/military as the original purveyor of violence against the Iraqi Sunnis since 2003 in that first paragraph I wrote in my earlier comment.

    -a mes


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