09/10/2015, 00.00
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Church opens the first Christian museum in Basra, southern Iraq

The Archdiocese and Archbishop Habib Alnaufali Jajou are behind the project. The collection includes unique items, ranging from religious artifacts and documents to liturgical furnishings and photographs. For the prelate they are evidence of "the care our ancestors paid when they exercised their faith."

Basra (AsiaNews) – At a time marked by violence, persecution and emigration, the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Basra under the leadership of Archbishop Alnaufali Habib Jajou, celebrated a milestone in history, namely the opening of the first museum Christian (pictured) in the south of the country.

Located inside the Archdiocese, the museum contains collections of over 200 religious artefacts, documents, photographs, tools, clothing and furniture dating back to the 17th century.

The museum is designed to collect, preserve, and display items of cultural and religious significance that describe 2,000 years of Christian history in the country for the benefit and education of the public.

For Iraqi Catholics, this is a major step at a time of mass migration and persecution, especially in northern Iraq, which is under the control of the Islamic State group. Without any action, the Christian presence runs the risk of being wiped out.

“During 2014, many rare artefacts were gathered, such as books, paintings and some instruments that were used in Mass,” the prelate told Independent Catholic News. “These artefacts have a spiritual value and they show the care that our ancestors paid when they exercised their faith."

"When I took over the Archdiocese,” Mgr Habib added, “I noticed it contained many valuable items and I began to reference them. Then, with the help of some volunteers and priests, we gathered all the material and decided to exhibit them".

Basra Christians once constituted a major component of the city, especially among the once rich merchant class.

However, like the rest of the country, the community has shrunk considerably even though they suffered less persecution than in Mosul, Baghdad, Kirkuk or Nineveh plain.

According to recent estimates, less than 10 per cent of Basra’s 3,000 Christian families still live in the city.

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