MOSUL — As government forces pry apart the Islamic State’s three-year grip on Mosul, Muslims and Christians have united to rebuild a damaged monastery.
A Facebook page called “This Is Christian Iraq” — dedicated to connecting Iraqi Christians and maintaining the faith amid ISIS threat — recently posted a series of photos showing the joint effort.
The May 27 post said that young Muslims from the northern neighborhood joined Christians at the Monastery of St. George, participating in cleaning and repairs.
The monastery belongs to the Chaldean Catholic tradition, an Eastern Catholic rite in full communion with the Vatican. ISIS militants vandalized the monastery, smashing windows, damaging the church’s dome and discarding its cross.
Although still in need of repairs, the17th-century monastery gathered Chaldeans for Easter celebrations this year, according to the Irish Times.
“God willing, the celebration of the resurrection of Christ will also mark the return and rising-up of the Christians in Iraq,” Kyriacos Isho, an attendee, told the newspaper.
A new cross has now replaced the old one, and the coming together of Christians and Muslims marks a promising time for both religions, as reports announce a final push against the Islamic terrorists.
Residents have seen U.S.-backed Iraqi forces gathering around the local Grand al-Nuri Mosque in the 48 hours leading up to May 31, in what Reuters reports to be a “final showdown.”
The nearly 1,000-year-old mosque has flown the terrorist’s black flag since the group captured the capital city in 2014. The site is where the Islamist caliphate was declared by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announcing the reign of a new Muslim leader.
Three years ago, the Islamic State made roads into Iraqi’s Nineveh Plain, and since then, more than 3.3 million Iraqis have been displaced internally. Christians and moderate Muslims were also subject to persecution. They were often forced to pay heavy taxes or even offered a choice of conversion or death.
Throughout 2016, internal and international forces reclaimed parts of the city, and eastern Mosul was retaken in early January of this year.
The government forces are now focusing on western Mosul, where the mosque is located at the Old City center, and the three districts near the Western side of the Tigris River.