St. Elijah’s Monastery, the oldest Christian monastery in Mosul, Iraq, has been destroyed by the Islamic State terror group as seen in satellite images that were released Wednesday.
Associated Press released photos of the demolished Deir Mar Elia, a monastery built by Assyrian monks between 582 and 590 A.C. Analysts suspect it has been broken down between Aug. 27 to Sept. 28, 2014, when the jihadist group seized Mosul City.
“Bulldozers, heavy equipment, sledgehammers, possibly explosives turned those stone walls into this field of grey-white dust. They destroyed it completely,” Stephen Wood from Allsource Analysis said.
The terror group demolished more than a hundred churches and monasteries in Mosul, Bashiqa and Qaraqosh, as well as pre-Islamic villages in Nimrud, Hatra and Nineveh.
The IS has been forcing Christians in Syria and Iraq to convert to Islam, believing it is the only religion that should be followed. Muslims under the Islamic State are forced to pay overpriced tithes or taxes, or else they will be sent away or executed.
This isn’t the first time Iraqi Christians were persecuted, though, since 150 Chaldean Catholic monks were massacred by Persian forces in 1743, when they refused to convert to Islam.
“We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land,” said Catholic priest Father Paul Thabit Habib, who currently lives in Irbil.
He said that St. Elijah’s monastery “became a spiritual place for Christians to visit and to have religious ceremonies, and to ask forgiveness from the saint who founded this monastery.”
“The monastery attracted all the people from Mosul – Christians and Muslims. All the poets, historians and travellers wrote about this monastery,” he added. “It became a very important place for the history of the Church in Iraq.”
A security source in Nineveh confirmed the report to BBC saying the IS has completely blown up the 1400-year-old monastery.