The United Arab Emirates has pledged to help rebuild a pair of Mosul churches that were destroyed by Islamic State militants.
The UAE, which has a history of oppressing Christians, is undertaking the work in conjunction with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and their initiative titled “Revive the Spirit of Mosul.”
Al-Tahira Syriac-Catholic Church and Al-Saa’a Church in the besieged city of Mosul were absolutely ransacked by ISIS fighters back in 2016, with much of the structure being destroyed in an explosion.
According to International Christian Concern (ICC), the rebuilding efforts also hope to bring a new lease of life to the local economy by employing around 1,000 workers.
“It is encouraging to see this level of engagement from the UAE in helping to rebuild two historic churches in Mosul. This is a great start, and it’s certainly something to build on,” ICC’s Advocacy Director, Matias Perttul, told Faithwire.
“We hope that the UAE government will continue in this spirit and keep investing into the restoration of Christian communities in the entire region and helping those communities flourish as they once did. The Christian community in the Middle East has been decimated over the years and the need is great. The UAE government can and should do even more.”
‘Not a single structure is unscathed’
Mosul was absolutely devastated after the ISIS invasion, which began in June 2014 and became known as “The Fall of Mosul.” Staggeringly, despite the Iraqi army having some 30,000 troops there, an ISIS force of just 1,500 managed to overrun the military in a matter of days. Some 500,000 civilians fled from the city as a result of the fighting.
The city was eventually retaken by the Iraqi military in July of 2017.
“The occupation of Mosul left the City destroyed. Not a single structure is unscathed. Not a single pane of glass is unbroken,” UNESCO noted earlier this year. “The archeological site of Nimrud, the Museum of Mosul, the Nabi Younnis Shrine, the Al Hadba Minaret and many other sites and landmarks lie in ruins.”
As a result, since 2018, the organization has been engaging in a project of “sustainable recovery and reconstruction.”
“With the full support of the Government of Iraq and of the UN Secretary-General, UNESCO will coordinate international efforts in two main areas: the restoration and rehabilitation of cultural heritage and the revival of educational and cultural institutions,” they added.
The UAE’s Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, Noura Al Kaabi, said that the project signified a “pioneering partnership that sends a message of light, in seemingly darker times,” according to Gulf News. “By rebuilding a fraction of the past, Iraq can shape its future as an inclusive, tolerant and open society which has always found a tangible manifestation in Mosul’s rich historical sites,” he added.
Open Doors USA lists the UAE, an Islamic republic, as instituting a “high” level of persecution against Christians. Despite there being over 1.2 million believers in the country, Open Doors notes that “the government does not allow them to evangelize or pray in public.”
“Converts from Islam endure the most persecution as they face pressure from family members and the local community to recant their Christian faith,” the organization added. “This makes it almost impossible for converts to reveal their conversion and explains why there are hardly any reports of Christians being killed or harmed for their faith.”