January 12, 2008

Early Christian church in the Iraqi desert

No-one celebrated Christmas in Al-Aqiser church on Tuesday, for what many consider to be the oldest eastern Christian house of worship lies in ruins in a windswept Iraqi desert.

Armed bandits and looters rule in the region and no one can visit the southern desert around Ain Tamur unescorted, local officials say.

But 1,500 years ago, the first eastern Christians knelt and prayed in this barren land, their faces turned towards Jerusalem.

The remains of Al-Aqiser church lie in the windswept sand dunes of Ain Tamur, around 70 kilometres (40 miles) southwest of the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, forgotten by most.

Full article here, with pictures.

Posted by David on January 12, 2008 11:33 AM


It is difficult to fathom what has been lost in Iraq, or what will be lost before the madness ends. I recall that weeks before the invasion began, in my own modest way, I attempted to reach and work through normative routes to planners in the Defense Department as well as the Smithsonian to urge that planning for the obvious invasion that was to occur factor in securing scientific collections, significant sites and libraries. It took no great imagination to realize that so much of the heritage of that wrecked nation was so portable and likely to find markets in the underworld of life, or be victims to mindless looting. Apart from collections in museums, I expressed concerns for noteworthy sites, geologic, archeology sites and paleolithic sites, etc., as well as any zoos. The DOD was completely unresposive but I recall a terse message from the Smithsonian that a "committee" was in place and was dealing with the issues.

War has priorities to be sure, and the conduct of the mission may not place national treaures as high on any lists as securing the immediate objectives of the mission. But to ignore until too late, the need for securing collections, sites, and repositories is very shortsighted and absurd. Indeed, only a return to some sense of peace in Iraq will anable a review of the situation, but one can only fear that it is too late for so much.

Posted by: Donald Wolberg on January 13, 2008 10:09 AM
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