Date: May 26, 2015
By Mark Ellis, Special to ASSIST News Service
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (ANS - May 26, 2015) -- With IS fighters visible in the distance and bullets whistling over his head, Friar Najeeb Michaeel sprang into action to save hundreds of ancient Christian manuscripts in his possession.
“You are going to get us killed with your archives,” his assistant complained as they struggled to haul six boxes of the documents out of Qaraqosh, according to a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Previously, Michaeel was forced to take his priceless collection from Mosul to Qaraqosh during an Islamist insurgency in 2008, when thousands of Christians fled the city, according to AFP.
Last year, the friar watched as IS fighters seized town after town, destroying priceless artifacts and documents in museums and libraries in their charge across Iraq and Syria.
As IS seized the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria on May 21st, Friar Michaeel told AFP in Paris how he was gripped with the desire to preserve the remnants of Iraq’s 2,000-year-old Christian heritage.
“It was imperative that these manuscripts, conserved in the Dominican library in Mosul and then in Qaraqosh, escape the systematic destruction of the non-Muslim cultural heritage,” he told AFP.
“I thought we were going to die.”
When IS seized Mosul in June, a short distance from Qaraqosh, Michaeel took action. “We loaded a large part of the manuscripts in a truck and drove them to Erbil, which is 70 kilometers (40 miles) away,” he told AFP.
When the jihadists descended on Qaraqosh on August 7, causing the remaining Dominican friars to escape, he hid the valuable manuscripts in his car.
“We were engulfed in the massive exodus of Christians and Yazidis who were fleeing to Erbil”, Michaeel told AFP.
About the writer: Mark Ellis is a senior correspondent for ASSIST News Service and also the founder of www.Godreports.com, a website that shares stories, testimonies and videos from the church around the world to build interest and involvement in world missions.