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The Race Against ISIS: Efforts to Preserve Ancient Christian Culture in the Middle East

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Amal Marogy
2 December 2014
Hudson Institute
 
On 21 July 2014 ISIS seized the 4th century Saint Behnam monastery, expelled resident monks and burned an estimated 1,500 biblical manuscripts.

On 21 July 2014 ISIS seized the 4th century Saint Behnam monastery, expelled resident monks and burned an estimated 1,500 biblical manuscripts.


As ISIS continues to wage a campaign to eradicate the entire Christian presence and every trace of that ancient community’s existence in northern Iraq, a treasure of Christian patrimony, consisting of relics and manuscripts testifying to nearly two millennia of Christianity, is being systematically destroyed. Dr. Amal Marogy, originally from the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, fears that the ongoing jihadist religious cleansing of this 1,600-year-old Christian community means that Iraq’s Aramaic language and culture is in danger of dying out. ISIS has already burned some 1,500 biblical manuscripts held at the fourth-century monastery of St. Behnam, which was seized last summer in Nineveh. While some manuscripts, including those of Mar Behnam, have been digitized, many others have not.

Dr. Marogy is on an urgent mission to record the social history of her region, Duhok, and its Aramaic songs, prayers, and poetry. In 2013, she founded the Aradin Charitable Trust to help preserve Aramaic and the Christian heritage throughout the Middle East. She is an Affiliated Researcher in Neo-Aramaic Studies at Cambridge University and was previously Director of Studies in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at King’s College.

On December 2nd, Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom hosted Dr. Marogy for a presentation on the current situation in Iraq and her foundation’s efforts to train clergy from Middle Eastern Churches to protect and preserve ancient Church documents and chronicle contemporary events and human rights abuses. Nina Shea, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Religious Freedom at Hudson Institute, moderated the event.

Dr. Marogy’s presentation can be seen here.

Posted in: Sanctum Sanctorum

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