Wednesday, 20 January 2016

'I am what is not': Iraq's oldest monastery has been destroyed by ISIS


Iraq's oldest Christian monastery destroyed by Islamic State

says the BBC headline. The Mar Elia monastery has been razed by ISIS. The story is here.

Oh no, oh no, oh no. 

It would be a lie to deny that this moves me much more than the deaths of thousands. William Golding said that it was indefensible to care more for the survival of Salisbury Cathedral than that of a child, but wicked or not, of course I do.

Looking on the net, I see that the Mar Elia monastery was built in the late 6th century, renovated in the 17th century and was in ruins by the 20th century. Some parts of it though were clearly very ancient.

I was lucky enough, a few years ago, to visit an even older monastery in Iraq, the Mar
Mattai monastery, founded in 363 by a hermit, Mattai or Matthew, who was fleeing persecution by Julian the Apostate. However, all you can see of the the Mar Mattai monastery is late 19th century, though the lower parts of some of the pillars in the nave are mediaeval. It is still intact, protected by the Kurdish Peshmerga, thank God.

I remember a monk at the Mar Mattai monastery telling me, what is self-evident enough, that Saddam was a very good thing for Christians. The monk told me that a Jew told him, when the Jews were driven out,
They are expelling the Saturday people now. It will be the turn of the Sunday people later. 
Undoubtedly George W. Bush, the USA and the UK can be blamed for all that has happened since they overthrew Saddam, but Saddam would not have lived or ruled forever. Nor would Gaddafi. It may very well be that strong men could have kept the Middle East at peace (they made a desert and called it peace) for a generation longer - we cannot know. It may be that this resurgence of Islam was likely to happen one day. This resurgence in fact began with the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and continued on September 11th, 2001.

There is a war being waged by some Muslims against Christians and Christendom, however much the West does not want to think about this idea. They are the terrorists, but the aim of conquering Christendom is not confined to terrorists.

Two Turkish friends of mine, whose judgement I respect, both ex-Muslims, tell me that Muslims in many countries, including the Saudi royal family and Mr. Erdogan, see the flood of migrants as a means of achieving a Muslim Europe. Two Syrian Christian friends, who read internet fora in Arabic, promise me that this is how very many Middle Eastern Muslims feel. 

And why should they not? I am pleased that Britain ruled India and would love the Middle East to become Christian again.

How far away these ideas are from those of the people in Europe who welcomed the migrants. Robin Lustig, who until recently read the news on the BBC World Service, a respected man, was saying
Welcome them all. Dig up the Greenbelt, create new cities, turn our Downton Abbeys into flats. Whatever it takes.
I remember he argued that migrants should be employed to build over the golf courses of Britain, to build houses and flats for themselves. I choose him at random as an example of one of the more embarrassing migrant-maniacs but there were so many others. The most extreme and embarrassing of them all, tragically, was Angela Merkel. There were many migrant-maniacs until Cologne, at least, and the sad truth is that there probably still are almost as many. 

This is a death wish. It mirrors ISIS's wish to destroy.

As always at the heart of evil is the urge to destroy. God in the Old Testament sublimely says 
I am Who am
or, in Hebrew,
I am being itself.
Evil, by contrast, Lucifer if you will, is destruction itself, negation itself, annihilation. This is the paradox of evil. It is very real, it very certainly exists and yet it is, at its heart, nothing.
I am what is not.


  1. Destroying pre-islamic history, this is what has been done in almost ALL islamic conquests throughout the history. Destroying the history of the people you conquer is of course not limited to the islamic conquest, in almost all conquests this has happened.

    1. Britain conquered India but did not destroy its History. When Curzon was Viceroy he was active in saving India's past monuments. Nehru praised him.