MOSUL, Iraq – Two years after the liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIS), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has announced the reconstruction of Al-Tahira, the Catholic Church in Mosul’s oldest neighborhood, which was destroyed by ISIS during the liberation.
The first recorded mention of Al-Tahira dates to 1672, however its location in Mosul’s oldest neighborhood and the partial burial of the lower level indicate the ancient structure is much older, possibly dating back to the 7th century.
The church was severely damaged by ISIS militants when they invaded the city in June 2014. The most catastrophic damage occurred during the liberation of the city when, in April 2017, bombardments caused the collapse of the roof.
UNESCO’s “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” project is the largest reconstruction and rehabilitation plan in the history of Iraq. Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay stated that the city of Mosul has always been a symbol of diversity and tolerance before the war.
In March 2016, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had stated that ISIS had been committing war crimes against Christians, Yazidis, and Muslims in Iraq and Syria. Though ISIS had been expelled from Mosul in 2017, the security conditions in the city and most of the surrounding areas are still fragile and weak for Christians and Yazidis.
More than two years after its liberation, Mosul is still a city in ruins and rubble without any real international reconstruction efforts. As a result, the United Nations sponsored development program is working to restore and reconstruct the private houses in the old city of Mosul whose residents are mostly still living in camps.