Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 October 2019

UAE to restore Iraqi churches destroyed by ISIS

Abu Dhabi has renewed a partnership with Unesco and the people of Iraq

Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, said the UAE has renewed its partnership with Unesco to restore heritage destroyed by ISIS. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, said the UAE has renewed its partnership with Unesco to restore heritage destroyed by ISIS. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The UAE will become the first country in the world to restore Christian churches in Iraq destroyed by ISIS.

The two churches in Mosul were blown up by the militant group during the battle for the northern Iraqi city that concluded in December 2017.

The Gulf state’s efforts to restore the historic Iraqi city’s lost spirit was announced in April 2018.

The Ministry of Culture is funding a partnership with the UN’s heritage agency, Unesco, worth $50.4 million (Dh185.1m) to rebuild sites such as the Al Nuri Mosque and its Al Hadba minaret, which was where ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi announced in 2014 that he had established a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

The Unesco programme is not restricted to Muslim sites – it includes two churches, a Yazidi temple and the central library of Mosul University.

“We are very honoured to sign this partnership with Unesco and the people of Iraq to take our efforts further in helping rebuild Mosul and reviving the spirit of coexistence and social cohesion,” Noura Al Kaabi, the Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, said at the signing of the agreement.

Destroyed parts of the old city of Mosul. Iraq needs to spend heavily on reconstruction of areas devastated by war. AFP.
Destroyed parts of the old city of Mosul. Iraq needs to spend heavily on reconstruction of areas devastated by war. AFP.

Thursday’s agreement concerned the restoration efforts for two churches in Mosul’s Old City, where ISIS made its last stand during the offensive.

The UAE will support the reconstruction of the 800-year old Al Tahera church, she said, as well as the restoration of the Al Saa’a church.

“[Al Tahera] became a living example of the brotherhood between the people of Mosul who graduated from its educational institution, regardless of their religious background,” the ministry said. Audrey Azoulay, Unesco’s general director, said the announcement was an important step for the recovery of the Old City of Mosul.

“This rehabilitation aims to reclaim the true spirit of the city ... I am thankful to the United Arab Emirates and Minister Al Kaabi who have generously supported our initiative since the beginning,” Ms Azoulay said.

Updated: October 11, 2019 10:27 AM

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