Back in 2004, I got to visit a monastery and orphanage for boys that was in Al Qosh, a town about 31 miles northeast of Mosul, the modern Iraqi city that is across the Tigris from what was once Nineveh. The chapel, the old stone walks, a lovely fountain inside an enclosed courtyard; the whole place was a serene, beautiful spot. The tomb of the Old Testament prophet Nahum was nearby.
It was just one of several irreplaceable monasteries and holy spots in an area that goes back more than 25 centuries to the days of the Assyrian king Sennacherib. Recent years have brought true catastrophe in the form of the conquering hordes of ISIS that, among other violations, destroyed the tomb of Jonah in Mosul in 2014. So maybe it should not be a huge surprise that some time in the past 18 months, ISIS destroyed Iraq’s oldest monastery. As the Associated Press describes it:
IRBIL, Iraq -- The oldest Christian monastery in Iraq has been reduced to a field of rubble, yet another victim of the Islamic State group’s relentless destruction of ancient cultural sites.
For 1,400 years, the compound survived assaults by nature and man, standing as a place of worship recently for US troops. In earlier centuries, generations of monks tucked candles in the niches and prayed in the cool chapel. The Greek letters chi and rho, representing the first two letters of Christ’s name, were carved near the entrance.
Now satellite photos obtained exclusively by The Associated Press confirm the worst fears of church authorities and preservationists -- St. Elijah’s Monastery of Mosul has been completely wiped out. …