Young Iraqi Muslims revive Syriac Catholic Mar Toma Church to encourage return of Christians to Mosul

MOSUL, Iraq – A team of young Muslims have cleaned and revitalized the Syriac Catholic Mar Toma Church to encourage the return of displaced Christians of Mosul to their homes and neighborhoods. According to Ishtartv news and A24 news agency, the “Mosul Sawaed” team of volunteers cleaned litter and debris from the church left after the destruction by terrorist organization ISIS, and the damaged done in the battle to free Mosul from ISIS.

ISIS left a trail of archaeological destruction during its reign of terror. It targeted especially Yazidis, Christians, and Shiites as they did not fit its Islamist and jihadist ideology. ISIS controlled the metropolis of Mosul and large parts of northern Iraq. Mosul was liberated in September 2017.

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The team of young and arduous activists has embarked on a campaign to clear the dust, litter, and debris of war from archaeological heritage sites and cultural landmarks in the city to restore it to its former glory and convince displaced residents to return. The team also re-illuminates the monumental objects at night to remind its residents and the world that the city is alive and remains strong despite all the disasters throughout its troubled history.

Father Raed Adel who is in charge of the Syriac Catholic Churches in Mosul described the revitalization campaign of the young volunteers to A24 news agency as, “Young people working hand in hand in every service and humanitarian work in the city of Mosul.”

The Syriac Catholic Mar Toma Church was named after St. Thomas the Apostle who did missionary work all the way in India. The church was founded in 1863 (restored in 1959).

There is also a Syriac Orthodox Mar Toma Church in Mosul (the Syriac Catholics and Syriac Orthodox separated in full late 18th century). The first mentioning of the church was probably of 770 AD. The church was restored in 1744. It holds relics of St. Thomas and St. Theodosius.

The church was a cathedral until the Syriac Orthodox moved to a new cathedral in the 1980s. The last bishops that served Mosul were Mor Gregorius Polus Behnam (1952-1960), Mor Gregorius Saliba Shamoun (1969-2013), and the current Archbishop Nikodemus Matti Sharaf (2013-present). Since the ISIS occupation, Archbishop Nikodemus Matti Sharaf resides in Ankawa. From the recent start of a new school building in Ankawa it might be concluded that the Syriacs from Mosul residing in Ankawa will not return.