The loss of property, art, and history pales before the loss of life and the death march of refugees who leave everything behind to find a place of relative security -- perhaps to return or never to restore their Christian presence in their homelands. Too often the news stories have been about high profile kidnappings or about battle tactics (think drones here) or about how much the West and the non-ISSL states of the Middle East are willing to invest to stop this plague. Hidden in those stories is the tragedy of Christians who have become the unwitting victims and targets of many sides in these battles.
Here Newsweek tells a little bit of the story. It is not much, it is too little, but it is not too late to chronicle those who have paid the worst price for the political missteps of the West and for chronic warmongering of Islam (radical or not).
The ancient cities of Nimrud and Nineveh that they visited proudly to show their children the glories of the Assyrian empire from which they claim descent – soon these will be bulldozed by ISIS. They leave behind the treasures of Assyria in the Mosul museum – ISIS will loot the smaller antiquities for the black market and smash the statues too big to sell. And on the way to Mar Mattai, they pass the monastery of Mar Behnam: its gates are already barred by ISIS. From the steeple flies the black flag. In a few months, it will be destroyed.What they carry with them is their liturgical music. It preserves strains of the earliest religious chants of Mesopotamia and of court songs sung for Assyrian emperors 2,000 years before Christ. Its antiquity is matched by its simplicity: clergy and congregation sing together, dividing between boys with high voices and older, bigger men who sing more deeply. Beyond this there is no distinction of note or pitch, and no melody. The call and response format is thought to enact a conversation between man and God.Tonight, they will again sing the old songs. They make for the inner rooms: the hermits’ cells burrowed into the cliff--face; the Saints’ Room, with its reliquaries set in niches in the rock; the chapels dug deep into the holy mountain.
Read it and weep. . .