09/14/2019, 09.00
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Qaraqosh Christian library, devastated by ISIS, reopens to the public

The jihadist militias had destroyed or plundered much of the collection. With the help of the faithful and volunteers, it was returned to the public with the aim of becoming a cultural and educational reference point. Syrian-Catholic priest: "A structure reborn from the rubble and destruction" which today houses 650 volumes.

Qaraqosh (AsiaNews) - The Christian library of Qaraqosh, in the plain of Nineveh in northern Iraq set on fire by militiamen of the Islamic State (SI, ex Isis) during the rise of the jihadist group, has reopened to the public.

The men of the "Caliphate" had burned or looted most of the cultural and literary heritage; however, thanks to the commitment of Christian charitable organizations and other realities, including the Syro-Catholic Church, it has reopened its doors and quickly became a reference point for the area.

In the summer of 2014, ISIS invaded Qaraqosh destroying homes, devastating churches, the library and other places of interest in the city. Tens of thousands of Christians had to leave their homes in a hurry, in what has long been the most important Christian center of the plain of Nineveh.

Also known by the name of Bakhdida, the town was freed from the jihadist yoke two years later, in 2016. On their return - to date still partial - families have found the signs of looting and devastation; most of the books in the library had been burned or taken away. With the help of volunteers, the faithful have cleaned up the remaining volumes and created a collective with the aim of bringing back to life a first-rate cultural and educational center.

In two months of work the library was able to reopen the doors to visitors, thanks also to the commitment of Fr. Duraid, a Syrian Catholic priest. A structure reborn, he says, “from the rubble and destruction, to become a cultural center. Our hope is that it can be a meeting and research space for intellectuals, authors, poets and simple readers”.

The library, part of the Christian center for social and cultural activities, was dedicated to Fr. Louis Qasab, a priest originally from Qaraqosh. Inside there are about 650 books, divided into various categories: sciences, religion, fiction, politics and literature for children and teens, in English, Arabic, French and German.

For the leaders of the local Church, the structure now returned to the public will serve to educate the new generations. "I believe that the library - emphasizes Labib al Katib - is very important to motivate people to read and to strengthen their level of education".

Despite the devastation "that still surrounds us", he adds, people have already started "turning to the library for their scientific research or for study purposes". The next step will be the installation of an internet network for greater archive digitization.

According to local Church sources, so far over 5100 families who had to leave their homes five years ago have already returned to the region to start reconstruction work.

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