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Christians and Muslims rebuild Mosul, city destroyed by ISIS

“Revive the spirit of Mosul” is a project spearheaded by UNESCO to rebuild the city ISIS destroyed in 2014, and that Pope Francis will visit on March 7.

Assistant Site Coordinator, UNESCO

“One of the goals for the project, the name of the initiative, to revive the spirit of Mosul, not only by rebuilding the monumental buildings, but also to build the community that ISIS tried to destroy.”

The initiative includes the rehabilitation of important structures: the Al Nouri mosque and Al-Hadba minaret, the Syriac Catholic Al-Tahera church and the Latin Al-Saa'a church. It was launched in 2019 in collaboration with the Iraqi government and the United Arab Emirates.

It's a painstaking process that includes removing rubble, setting up security so workers can safely move around the sites, installing monitoring systems to gauge the structures' stability over time, and documenting as many pieces of the original building material as possible. 

The team working on the Al-Nouri mosque for instance, collected more than 40,000 pieces of brick and removed around 5,600 tons of rubble and about 20 IEDs.

Assistant Site Coordinator, UNESCO

“Most of them were put inside the walls. ISIS removed the plaster, removed the stone because the thickness of the wall for the mosque, about one meter, they removed about 50 centimeters for the IEDs, and put the stone back and plastered it. So nobody would know if there's a bomb inside the walls or not.”

The project has drawn many of the Old City's former inhabitants back, Muslims and Christians who lived side by side until ISIS drove them out. 

Assistant Site Coordinator, UNESCO

“They lived in peace together, and also they encouraged people to work here for this project. For example, many Muslim people work on the churches, and also there are some people, Christian people, working on the mosque.”

More than 400 people from the Old City have been hired to work at the different construction sites, in an effort to create employment opportunities and give life back to the local community.

With the combined efforts and expertise of engineers, archaeologists and architects, the mosque and churches should be completed in 2023. Every brick brings them one step closer to reviving the spirit of Mosul.


Video courtesy of UNESCO