Iraqi rescuer of centuries-old books from ISIS’s destruction nominated for the EU award

Mgr Najeeb MICHAEEL, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, has been listed as one of the three finalists to obtain the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament. The decision will be announced on 22 October.

When the Islamic State arrived in Mosul in August 2014, Mgr Najeeb MICHAEELensured the evacuation of the Christians communities, Syriacs and Chaldeans, to Iraqi Kurdistan and safeguarded more than 800 historic manuscripts dating from the 13th to the 19th century. Since 1990 he has contributed to safeguarding 8,000 more manuscripts and 35,000 documents from the Eastern Church.

„We are very pleased that Archbishop Najeeb Michaeel has been nominated for this important award. It is a great opportunity to honour and recognize the courageous work of someone, who has been an unwavering defender of our Christian heritage in this ancient land. The award underlines the efforts of this pastor, who in the face of barbarism, saved the historical manuscripts that are so important in helping the Iraqi Christians communities keep their culture and heritage alive despite all obstacles”,  said Regina Lynch, head of projects by the pontifical international foundation ACN.

The Dominican religious showed the collection and explained details of the rescue to the ACN during a visit to Erbil in 2017, before his appointment as Archbishop of Mosul: “Just before ISIS came and occupied our land, our monastery, I felt something will happen very dangerous against us. That’s why I decided to put all these collections in the big truck and take them out of the Nineveh Valley and Mosul and put them here in Erbil, Kurdistan. It’s very important to us to save our heritage and keep it safe for future generations. The Christian community here in Iraq is not a new community. It’s very old, almost 2000 years old. We have many grammars and many dictionaries dating from the 12th to 13th century, in Aramaic especially, the language of Jesus Christ. It’s our mother tongue. And we are proud to keep them. And keep also many Muslim collections from Quran, from Hadis, from Alfiya Ibn Malik. And, some Yazidi manuscripts.”

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov. In past years, Patriarch Louis Sako as well Asia Bibi have been nominated.

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