Reporting by Halkawt Aziz
The Chaldean al-Hikmat Church – Church of Divine Wisdom – in Baghdad has a turbulent history.
It was built in 1929 by British architect James Mollison Wilson. When the Baath regime came to power in 1968, authorities closed the church’s gate and banned Christians from entering.
It was looted in 2003, after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The priest was kidnapped by extremists. Christians fled the neighbourhood and the church has since sat in solitude.
Now, neighbours are trying to save the church from a new threat – consumerism.
The church sits on valuable land and investors want to tear it down to make way for, reportedly
, a shopping mall.
“We arranged a campaign to clean the church on the Orthodox holy day. But we were shocked to see the church was closed by a decision of the church authorities. We asked the guard. He said the church’s manager is an investment holder. When we heard that, we tried to inform the authorities. But no one listened to us,” said neighbourhood resident Mohammed Obeidi.
Christians and Muslims have staged protests, launched social media campaigns, and shared their concerns with religious authorities in the Vatican all in a bid to prevent the church’s destruction.
The auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, Shlemon Warduni, said the church must be preserved.
“We don’t want this church to be destroyed for any reason. Both churches and mosques are houses of God. We need to protect them. God wants equality and liberty,” he said.