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I was in the beautiful Assyrian monastery of Saint Matthew's (Mar Mattai in Syriac) in 2010, overlooking the plain of Nineveh. In those days Kurdish Iraq was the place along with Syria where Christians were safe.

Mar Mattai dates from 363 and was founded by a hermit fleeing from Julian the Apostate. Some parts of the nave of the church are very old indeed, though what you can see is late 19th century. The monk I spoke to there, of course, said that Saddam was a good friend to Christians. How could he not? The monk also told me that one of the departing Jews in the 1970s told him 'It is the turn of the Saturday people now but it will be the Sunday people later.' 

When we arrived there were three large coaches parked in the forecourt and I feared we were not the only foreign tourists, but I found that the coaches had brought pilgrims from Erbil. Now no pilgrims dare visit and only six monks are left. Jane Corbin has been there for the BBC and wrote this very depressing report. Her broadcast can be watched in the UK on the net.

Damn Mr Bush and Mr Blair. (Damn Mr. Cameron and Mr. Sarkozy too for overthrowing Colonel Gaddafi.) Swearing relieves my feelings but now we have to do what we can against IS. 

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