UAE to restore Iraqi churches destroyed by ISIS

Abu Dhabi has renewed a partnership with Unesco and the people of Iraq

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - October 06, 2019: The Power of Culture in Knowledge Development with H.E. Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, UAE. Qudwa is a forum for teachers, by teachers that aims to elevate the teaching profession in the UAE. Sunday the 6th of October 2019. Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The UAE will become the first country in the world to restore Christian churches in Iraq destroyed by ISIS.

The two churches in Mosul were blown up by the militant group during the battle for the northern Iraqi city that concluded in December 2017.

The Gulf state’s efforts to restore the historic Iraqi city’s lost spirit was announced in April 2018.

The Ministry of Culture is funding a partnership with the UN’s heritage agency, Unesco, worth $50.4 million (Dh185.1m) to rebuild sites such as the Al Nuri Mosque and its Al Hadba minaret, which was where ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi announced in 2014 that he had established a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

The Unesco programme is not restricted to Muslim sites – it includes two churches, a Yazidi temple and the central library of Mosul University.

“We are very honoured to sign this partnership with Unesco and the people of Iraq to take our efforts further in helping rebuild Mosul and reviving the spirit of coexistence and social cohesion,” Noura Al Kaabi, the Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, said at the signing of the agreement.

(FILES) This file photo taken on March 14, 2018 shows a view of destruction surrounding the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Hour (L) in the old city of Mosul, eight months after it was retaken by Iraqi government forces from the control of Islamic State (IS) group fighters. An exhibition opens at the Institute of the Arab World (IMA) in Paris showing the "millennia cities" resuscitated by the miracle of 3D, from Mosul to Aleppo. / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE

Thursday's agreement concerned the restoration efforts for two churches in Mosul's Old City, where ISIS made its last stand during the offensive.
The UAE will support the reconstruction of the 800-year old Al Tahera church, she said, as well as the restoration of the Al Saa'a church.

“[Al Tahera] became a living example of the brotherhood between the people of Mosul who graduated from its educational institution, regardless of their religious background,” the ministry said. Audrey Azoulay, Unesco’s general director, said the announcement was an important step for the recovery of the Old City of Mosul.

“This rehabilitation aims to reclaim the true spirit of the city ... I am thankful to the United Arab Emirates and Minister Al Kaabi who have generously supported our initiative since the beginning,” Ms Azoulay said.

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