“Meanwhile, in Iraq, a Dominican priest, Najeeb Michaeel (in photo, center, with Fr. Stewart at left), had already established a center for digitization of Christian manuscripts in the Christian village of Qaraqosh. HMML helped him digitize thousands of Syriac, Arabic, and Armenian manuscripts. In 2014, after the Islamic State group took over Mosul, Michaeel (who is now the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul) took the precaution of moving the precious manuscripts out of Qaraqosh, even though it was not expected that ISIS would move eastward of Mosul. But they did.
Along with the gruesome treatment ISIS meted out to “infidels” and the destruction it incurred upon places like the Mosul Museum and the ancient city of Palmyra, they also destroyed major manuscript collections in Mosul, “leaving behind only the digital images and a handful of severely damaged volumes,” Fr. Stewart said. “Most collections outside of Mosul, however, had been saved: moved at the last minute, or successfully concealed. This was the case at Mar Behnam Monastery, where some 500 manuscripts were hidden behind a false wall and never discovered during the two-year occupation of the monastery by ISIS. When the monks returned to their now wrecked and defaced monastery, where ISIS had blown up the shrines of the saints to whom the monastery was dedicated, they found the manuscripts intact, safe in their hiding place, a still-beating heart in the battered and bruised body of the cloister.”
Today, HMML has a growing digitized collection of more than 250,000 handwritten books and 50 million handwritten pages. The work is vitally important to helping scholars gain a deeper understanding of ancient cultures, Fr. Stewart said….”