One of the most devastating aspects of the Islamic State’s assault on the Middle East has been the war waged against Christian heritage, culture and tradition. It has become a central mission for ISIS — to eradicate any trace of Christianity from the region.
But amid the violence and destructive chaos, some heroes have emerged. One such individual is a Muslim man from Iraq, who reportedly risked his life to save some precious ancient Christian texts from certain destruction.
During the city of Mosul’s brutal occupation at the hands of Islamic State militants, the unnamed Muslim man instructed his family to keep two Syriac Orthodox books safe from the evil hands of the patrolling ISIS militia. After Mosul was liberated in July of last year, the man presented the manuscripts to a representative of the Chaldean community in Erbil, pleading that the family’s identity be kept anonymous because ISIS “sleeper cells” still operated in the city.
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Fr. Paulos Thabit Mekko is now the keeper of the sacred documents. He will look after them until the rightful owners are located.
“Recently a Chaldean from Mosul contacted me saying that he had a Muslim neighbor from the time he lived in the city 20 years ago,” the priest told Asia News.
The clergyman said that both his family and the family of the Muslim man “have been friends for a long time,” despite the Islamist militants’ best efforts to divide the two communities.
The priest recalled how, in 2015, the Muslim man had traveled to an area near the Chaldean monastery of St. Michael when he spotted something out of the ordinary.
“One day the man saw a lorry dump some rubbish,” Mekko said. “He was in the area looking for some wood to cook and heat his home. Among the refuse, he found a couple of manuscripts in ancient Syriac script and thought they might be of some value.”
Setting aside the obvious danger he would be in should he be found in possession of such overtly Christian materials, the man decided to take the documents home.
“He was scared because he knew he could be killed if he were found out,” the Fr. Mekko noted.
The priest explained that a number of months later he was visiting his Christian neighbor in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan when he was informed about the presence of these ancient texts.