It may be a new day in Iraq. After many of the country’s Christians fled the nation or were killed after the American-led invasion, some are seeing new hope in cooperation with their Muslim neighbors. Muslims and Christians have come together in Iraq to preserve and reopen one of the nation’s oldest churches, which is actually one of the oldest churches in the world.
The Church of Kokheh was built in the First Century and is important to both religions. Vistors weren’t allowed for many years due to the threat posed by the Islamic State reigning terror in the region.
A group of Christians from Baghdad were visiting the site under specific supervision when they were invited to lunch by local Muslims according to Al-Monitor. In talking about the ancient church, they both realized they wanted to see it reopen.
For Muslims, the site represents a large part of their history and culture from the Mesopotamian era. For Christians, it represents the expansion of the church reaching Asia, China and India. For both, it has the potential of tourism where people can learn the history of each group.
The Muslims and Christians decided it was in their best interest to protect and preserve the archaeological site due to its historical significance. The Muslims agreed that getting sites like the Church at Kokheh ready can signal to the world that Iraq is ready once again to receive visitors and tourists as they rebuild their country after wiping out terrorism.
A minister with a Chaldean Christian church says the joint effort to restore this First Century church is extremely significant.
“This cooperation unites Muslims and Christians after having been divided by the atrocities and violence of ISIS over the past few years,” Fr. Maissar told Al-Monitor. “Reviving this church is perhaps a new starting point in the process of uniting Muslims and Christians.”