By Christianna Meyou
The Saint Elijah monastery, also known as Dair Mar Elia, the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq was destroyed only months after after the city of Mosul was taken over by the terrorist group named ISIS. Recent satellite images have shown that the 1,400 year old monastery has now been demolished to rubble. An imagery intelligence company, AllSource Analysis, had their own experts study the satellite images. After studying the images the experts determined that while the monastery was antiquated, it was unlikely that it had collapsed naturally. According to AllSource, a considerable amount of factors contribute to suggest that the demolition was deliberate. The first component to suggest that the destruction was intentional is that the building was crushed to dust, as if nothing was ever there. If the structure had collapsed naturally there would have been debris of different size all around the area. The satellite images next show parallel white lines or tracks seemed to be made from a bulldozer or tractor of some sort. The last and most important detail is the timing and location that does suggest ISIS as the culprit. The city of Mosul fell to ISIS in June of 2014, analysis of the images suggest the destruction happened in late August or September of 2014.
The Saint Elijah monastery is no longer a physical monument but now a spiritual monument to the people who were dedicated to the old yet beautiful church. Although the monastery was falling apart, there were still ceremonies, prayers, and masses celebrated inside the church. Now, those dedicated people still come to celebrate mass and pray at that large pile of rubble. For many the loss is heartbreaking and hits hard. Nothing will ever be able to replace the historic church that once stood tall and proud, filled with both Christians and Muslims who came to pray and worship. All the poets, historians, and travelers who visited always wrote about the monastery making it known world wide and making so important to the people of Iraq. Some believe that the destruction of this historical sight is a step in destroying a whole history of a nation and its people. Many people still have hope that with help we can stop the destruction of other churches and buildings.
There are a handful of different organizations who have reached out to those who have been forced out of their own homes and cities. One of the major organizations is the Shlama Foundation who help assist families after being forced out of their homes by ISIS. The Shlama Foundation, founded by michigan activists, is a non-governmental organization based in Iraq that strives to connect the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac diaspora directly to the homeland. Currently, the mission of Shlama focuses on assisting families who have fled to the Kurdistan region in order to ease the hardships associated with living on the streets and in tents. The main mission is to provide the people with support until one day they are able to return to their homes in the Nineveh Plains and continue living in their ancestral homeland.
There are countless different avenues that the Shlama Foundation uses to help raise money for our brothers and sisters back home. They host fundraisers within the community, and many local organizations host events with all proceeds going to the Shlama Foundation. This past summer, they hosted a Picnic for Peace which was a family-friendly event at Stoney Creek Metropark. At the event, they had raffle prizes along with a barbeque for our community. At this event, the Shlama Foundation raised over $6,000 to benefit the misplaced in Iraq. One of their most recent events was the annual Christmas party hosted by college students from about six different universities. Every single dollar raised that night, precisely $9,000, benefited Iraqi refugees. These are only a few of the many events they have been a part of and there are quite a few events planned for the future as well.
Also, take a look at the front counter of your local establishments, you may even see a donation jar located near the register. This is just another way we find that the community feels a sense of giving back. Those who donate through Shlama will know exactly what project their contribution will benefit. Shlama creates as much donor transparency as possible, for example, they upload receipts, pictures, and videos to their website to ensure donations are being used properly. In creating the videos, the Shlama Foundation gives the donors a glimpse into the lives of our misplaced brothers and sisters, and it makes the donation personal. To learn more about Shlama or to find out ways you can help, please visit http://www.shlama.org.