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Christian Monks, Students Refuse to Flee 4th-Century Monastery Near ISIS-Controlled Mosul; 'God Protects Us

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Christian Monks, Students Refuse to Flee 4th-Century Monastery Near ISIS-Controlled Mosul; 'God Protects Us

Three monks and six students have taken refuge in the ancient monastery of Mar Mattai in northern Iraq, just 12 miles from the Islamic State-occupied Mosul City, not willing to flee, and expressing "their faith that this is a secure place."

Erbil's Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda said a small unit of the Kurdish military is protecting the nine Christians but that's not why they believe they are safe in the shrine, also known as St. Matthew's Monastery.

"There is a kind of feeling that they cannot express but they at least feel relaxed in a way that even if, God forbid, something would happen, they are in safe hands," Warda told Catholic News Agency.

Many people in nearby villages have fled as the Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, now maintains control over much of the region.

ISIS, an offshoot of al-Qaeda, is seeking to establish a caliphate in the Levant region and beyond, and is fast expanding its control in Syria and Iraq. The Christian minority is one of its main targets.

An international coalition led by the United State has been launching airstrikes on ISIS targets. "We can see the battles and the airstrikes from here in front of us, especially at night. The sky lights up at night, but we of course are not scared. God protects us," Yousif Ibrahim, one of three monks, told USA Today.

Situated atop Mount Alfaf in Nineveh Plains, it is recognized as one of the oldest Christian monasteries in existence. Currently maintained by the Syriac Orthodox Church, the monastery has a magnificent library with considerable collection of Syriac Christian manuscripts.

 

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