UNESCO and UAE begin reconstruction of historic Iraqi church destroyed by ISIS

Al-Saa'a Church
The Conventual Church of Our Lady of the Hour in Mosul, Iraq, known as Al-Saa’a Church, will be restored as part of a project led by a partnership between UNESCO and the Emirates United Arabs. |

Work has begun to rebuild a Christian church in Iraq destroyed by Islamic State as part of a partnership between the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Muslim-majority United Arab Emirates.

UNESCO announced last week that construction of the Conventual Church of Our Lady of the Hour in Mosul has begun. Mosul was once Iraq’s second-largest city before it was overrun by the Islamic State terror group in 2014, but liberated by US-backed coalition forces in 2017.

“With the official approval of the Dominican Order, UNESCO – in close collaboration with the relevant authorities – will now begin the stabilization and rehabilitation of the Conventual Church of Our Lady of the Hour in Mosul,” said the international body in a press release. declaration.

“The component of this project will include all phases of a stabilization and rehabilitation project – from site clearance and initial investigation to the preparation of detailed design for the actual execution of the works.”

The church, also known as Al-Saa’a Church, was built in the 1800s and is located in the heart of Mosul’s Old City. The church is also known as the “Clock Church” because it was donated a clock in 1880 by Empress Eugénie of France, wife of Emperor Napoleon III.

As previously reported by The Telegraphthe church was destroyed by the Islamic State.

According to UNESCO, the church has always been considered one of the iconic landmarks of the region and was a “living example of brotherhood among Moslawis”.

“The rehabilitation of this church is important not only because of its value as cultural heritage, but also as a testimony to the diversity of the city, a proud crossroads of cultures and a haven of peace for different religious communities over the centuries. “, said UNESCO.

International Christian Concern, a US-based advocacy group, reports that Al-Saa’a Church represents the “long historical presence” of Christianity in Mosul.

According to UNESCO, the church building also has architectural value.

“Every spectator coming from Nineveh or Al-Farouq Street would first see the minaret of Al-Hadba and then the bell tower of the Conventual Church of Our Lady of the Hour, or vice versa,” the statement said. “This architectural and urban feature is etched in the memory and history of the people and the city and is emblematic of the cultural diversity and peaceful coexistence between its communities.”

The project “will create a unique ‘on-the-job training’ opportunity for local heritage professionals and craftspeople”.

The rehabilitation project was announced last October under the UNESCO-UAE initiative called “Bringing back the spirit of Mosul.” The project aims to rebuild the historical monuments of Mosul damaged by the Islamic State.

Another project announced under the initiative last October was the restoration of the Al-Tahira Syriac-Catholic Church. The century-old church saw its roof collapse during a bombing in 2017.

The UNESCO-UAE partnership is also job to restore the Al Hadba minaret and the Al-Nouri mosque in Mosul, built more than 850 years ago.

“UNESCO promotes reconciliation and social cohesion in Mosul through the restoration and reconstruction of iconic historic sites as part of UNESCO’s international initiative ‘Reviving the Spirit of Mosul’,” said the Minister. UNESCO.

The initiative will also include the construction of a museum and memorial site to “exhibit and preserve the remains of the sites along with the community and educational spaces”.

The UNESCO-UAE partnership comes as the Arab country has dedicated itself in recent years to promoting inter-religious harmony.

The United Arab Emirates described 2019 as “Year of tolerance.” In 2019, the UAE hosted a regional religious freedom summit and also hosted the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula.

Last September, plans were announced for the construction of an interfaith complex called the Abrahamic Family House in which a church, synagogue and mosque will be built on Saadiyat Island near Abu Dhabi.

The Abrahamic Family Home is the result of Pope Francis’ visit to Abu Dhabi last February. Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Egypt sign the establishment of the Interreligious Higher Committee of Human Fraternity.

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Martha J. Finley