The honey-stoned monastery has been a fixture of the Middle Eastern
landscape since the fourth century, a symbol in the land of its birth of
Christianity, the faith that shaped the West.
But now, its senior priest is urging all Christians to flee Iraq, because he warns they have no future there any more.
He spoke as government forces prepare to move in to liberate Mosul.
Father Yousif, deputy bishop of the fourth century St Matthews
Monastery or Mar Mattei, about 40k east of Mosul, has played a
significant role in sheltering the region's multitudes of displaced
"The future here is bad. Every time a terror group appears under a different name and sets out to persecute Christians."
He will be staying put. "I'm a monk, like a soldier I don't think
about himself." But he has urged his family, friends and all other
Christians to seek a better future outside Iraq.
It is estimated that two million people will flee Mosul when fighting starts, and many will be Christian.
His family used to live in Mosul.
His brother, Ragheed Fahmy Ibrahim, married with two children, who
worked as an electrical engineer and served as a deacon at his church,
was shot dead on his 37th birthday.
"We got a phone call telling us Ragheed had got into a fight. When I
arrived at the hospital, I saw he was shot with three bullets; the first
was in his head – entered from one side and out from the other – the
second was in his shoulder, and the third in the chest above his heart".
It was meant as an act of intimidation against Christians, Fr Yousif
insists, noting his brother was monitored and his killers chose that day
specifically. "They knew everything. They chose a Thursday evening as
they knew no doctors would be staying at hospitals late before a weekend
in Mosul. They made sure he would die."
However bad it gets, as Open Doors found,
many Christians still do not want to leave the city and country which
has been their home for generations. Fr Yousif's family stayed even
after the murder until they learned that other members were on an IS
Fr Yousif said: "My brother Ragheed used to say in the last months
before he was killed: 'We have a lot of sins. These sins cannot be
washed but by Jesus's blood!' I consider him a hero killed for the name
Persecution is a matter of pride, he added, saying he believed their Muslim persecutors might one day come to know God.
"I forgave them. Believe me I can tell you even Ragheed's wife now forgave those who killed her husband.
"St Paul used to persecute Christians, but later he knew Him and believed."