The completion of Mar Behnam rehabilitation, a sign of hope for the plain of Nineveh

The completion of Mar Behnam rehabilitation, a sign of hope for the plain of Nineveh

by Fraternité en Irak Fraternity in Iraq

Barely two years after the beginning of works, the rehabilitation of Mar Behnam sanctuary, blasted by Daesh in 2015, is over! This place of pilgrimage welcoming Christians, Muslims and Yazidis is the sign that life is stronger than destruction.

For every project, the completion part is the longest… and the reconstruction of the sanctuary of Mar Behnam was no exception! Several months ago on last December 10th, the celebration of Mar Behnam’s second gathering took place in a region ultimately liberated from Daesh and sounded like an inauguration. The Apostolic Nuncio based in Baghdad had made the trip, as well as Mossab Mohamad Jassem, the Head of the archeology and heritage office of Mosul, who had given the required agreements to the achievement of works.

Along with hundreds of pilgrims coming from far away, they both witnessed the repatriation of the relics of Saint Behnam and his sister Sara which had been miraculously preserved in the sanctuary despite the blast that struck the building.

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Above, the celebration of Saint Behnam in December 2018. Opposite, the interior of the renovated mausoleum.

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Since this great celebration, a railing has been set up around the building made by Rodi, the ironworker who also cared for the chandeliers and the high cross. His work is all the more symbolic as he has been able to reopen his business thanks to the economic revival program of Fraternity in Iraq! Workers then completed the finishing work such as the extension of the slab in front of the entrance building, or the refurbishment of the retaining wall.

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Weather conditions added delays to the deadlines: heavy rains of last winter did not allow the application of the last external coating to ensure the tightness of the mausoleum. Fortunately, the spring was nicer, and once the building completely dry, this last layer could be applied. The building has finally recovered its original ocher color! Ultimately, the entrance door of the mausoleum bears witness to the careful work of the local craftsmen (sculptors, carpenters, ironworkers, etc.) who contributed to make the sanctuary recover its yesteryear finesse and brilliance!

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The end of this project is an opportunity for Fraternity in Iraq to congratulate all the team that made this achievement possible:

We think of the workers who sometimes worked in very hard conditions under extreme heat.

Of course, we also want to commend the two architects, Laure and Guillaume de Beaurepaire, who have implemented this project. They started their mission as volunteers of Fraternity in Iraq and then continued it assigned by the association under the self-employed status. May they be congratulated for the quality of their work on this unique project!

We also thank the team of the three stone restoration experts who used all their skills to take care of these broken stones.

Last, Abdel Salam Simaan, a renowned Iraqi archaeologist, played a key role during both the archaeological excavation phase and the rehabilitation one. We want here to express our gratitude for his commitment.

Beyond the team gathered by Fraternity in Iraq, we would like to thank the dedication of the Mukhtar and the people of the Muslim village of Khidr because they are the ones who cleared the 600 m3 of rubble resulting from the blast.

This project could be also carried out because it had been subject to forecasting as of late 2015, well before its freeing. The opportunity to have been able to access it the day after his liberation, under exceptional conditions, had allowed us to note that foundations of the mausoleum had not been destroyed. Obviously, the strong will of Monseigneur Petros Mouché, Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul and Qaraqosh who made many steps easier, played a great role throughout the work.

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For the members of the association, it is now very moving to see this mausoleum rebuilt as it was only a pile of rubble in 2016. Let’s hope that the safeguarding of this monument part of Iraqi religious heritage will be an opportunity for Iraqis of different denominations that worship this place to re-build ties together.

A huge thank you to all our generous donors as well as to the ALIPH Foundation for allowing us to carry out this challenging project. The end of this task however is not the end of the project « Mar Behnam » since for all places where Fraternity in Iraq is involved, we will continue to work and follow up on in the long term.