Iraq: Priest is working to save historic Christian manuscripts from the Islamic State

Shi'ite fighters and Iraqi security forces during a military operation to retake positions held by Islamic State militants, near the village of Sharween, in Diyala province, north of Baghdad.Reuters

A Dominican Priest from the ISIS-held Iraqi city of Bakhdida is working to preserve historic Christian writings from being lost in the hands of the Islamic State.

According to report by the Catholic News Agency, Iraqi priest Najeeb Michaeel is working on digitalising the Christian manuscripts that were previously found in the Dominican library in the city of Bakhdida.

Fr Michaeel has been working since the 1980s to make digital copies of ancient Christian writings in order to preserve and ensure that they survive through the digital age. He heads the Center for the Digitization of Oriental Manuscripts, which he founded in 1990 for the same purpose.

So far, the CNA reported, Fr Michaeel's efforts have succeeded in collecting 750 Christian manuscripts. He was also able to add 1,300 manuscripts to his collection from the Bakhdida library just before the Islamic State's fighters have taken over Bakhdida and the Mosul in June and August last year.

These manuscripts include 13th and 14th century Christian writings, as well as literature on the Muslim Koran, on language, and music.

The Islamic State arrived in Mosul in June last year. By July, most Christians were driven out of the city including Fr Michaeel. The Islamic State took Bakhdida next in August.

According to Fr Michaeel, he loaded the manuscripts on to a truck and left the library in the early morning. "We passed three checkpoints without any problem, and I think the Virgin Mary [had] a hand to protect us," Fr Michaeel told the National Public Radio in an interview on January 26.

Unfortunately, more than 50,000 modern books were left behind in the library in Bakhdida when the Islamic State took over the city.

The Dominican library in Bakhdida has been around since the 1750s and was maintained by Dominican friars and the Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena.