The two churches were destroyed by the Islamic State when it overran Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, in 2014.
Even as recent geopolitical developments have exacerbated fears of a resurgence of the Islamic State terror group, plans to rebuild two churches in Iraq have emerged, with financial aid coming from the United Arab Emirates.
The churches were destroyed by the Islamic State when it overran Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in 2014. Christians were scattered from the metropolis and the nearby Nineveh Plain, as ISIS imposed Sharia law. Even after Mosul was liberated, Christians wondered if they could return. Would the city ever be safe again? Could they trust their neighbors, who in many cases took over the properties they had to leave?
ISIS fighters have been said to be lying low and ready to regroup if the opportunity presents itself. The United States’ recent pullback from neighboring Syria, withdrawing support from their Kurdish allies, who were guarding prisons full of the Islamist fighters, was not encouraging news for still-vulnerable Christian communities.
But the United Arab Emirates and UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural organization, seem to be casting a vote of confidence for Iraq’s Christians. A partnership announced October 10 will help rebuild two Catholic churches in Mosul that were destroyed in the ISIS rampage of 2014.
The partnership is part of the UAE’s “Year of Tolerance” initiative, which began with a $50.4 million agreement signed in April 2018 to help rebuild historical landmarks in Mosul, according to Catholic News Agency. The October 10 announcement is an addition to UNESCO’s Revive the Spirit of Mosul Initiative, which UNESCO called an “important step for the Christians of the East who are part of Mosul history and future.”
“Today’s signing is a pioneering partnership that sends a message of light, in seemingly darker times,” Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister for Culture and Knowledge Development, said at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. She was accompanied by UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay; the Ambassador of Iraq to France, Abdulrahman Hamid al-Husseini; and Dominican Brothers Nicolas Tixier and Olivier Poquillon.
Al-Saa’a is a Dominican church that was built between 1866 and 1873, and is often referred to as “Clock Church,” due to the clock lodged in its tower, a gift from Empress Eugenie of France to the Dominican Fathers of Mosul. Once rehabilitated, its convent will serve both as place of worship and as a community center for all of Mosul’s residents, UNESCO said.
Al-Tahera is a Syriac Catholic church built in 1862.