IRAQ: Hundreds of Christians celebrate the feast of St Behnam in ruins of monastery destroyed by ISIS
Hundreds of Iraqi Christians took part in the celebrations for the feast of the martyrs St. Behnam and his sister Sarah in the monastery where the relics of the saint are kept.
The sanctuary, a few kilometres from the city of Qaraqosh on the Nineveh Plain, is being rebuilt after the devastation it suffered at the hands of Islamic State. The reconstruction project for this important place of worship is being sponsored by the French association Fraternité en Iraq.
The massive participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic liturgies, held in the open air, was a clear and important sign of the willingness of the Iraqi Christians to return and resume their daily life, marked by the celebrations and festivities of the liturgical year, in the places where they have their roots.
In July 2014, the jihadists expelled the three Syro-Catholic monks who had officiated until the previous day. Some families who lived in the monastery were also expelled. Some months after the beginning of the occupation by the radical organization, a group from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi removed the crosses and burned the ancient manuscripts in the monastery. Then in 2015, they destroyed it with explosives, not even sparing the tomb of the saint.
Since then, people have expressed concern about the fate of the patrimony guarded in the old monastery, which dates back to the 4th century and is dedicated to the Assyrian martyr Prince Behnam and his sister Sara. It is one of the oldest and most revered places of worship in the world for Syriac Christianity.