The decision to create a new center for the conservation and exhibition of ancient manuscripts and books was taken by the bishops of the Chaldean Church during a meeting held on October 23, 2021 in Erbil, capital of the Autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan, under the presidency of Msgr. Louis Raphaël Sako.
The museum will be built in Ankawa, a district of Erbil inhabited mainly by Christians, in a building adjacent to the institute which houses Chaldean priests and seminarians.
This heritage is a valuable testimony to the roots of Christian communities of apostolic origin in the lands of present-day Iraq. The documents that the museum will house were presented to the meeting of Chaldean bishops by Msgr. Najeeb Moussa Michaeel, O.P., a Dominican named Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, in 2019.
Born in 1955 in Mosul, Fr. Najeeb Michaeel had been the director of the Center for the Digitization of Oriental Manuscripts in Mosul since 1990. Until 2007, thousands of ancient manuscripts and books cared for by the Dominicans were kept in the buildings of the Dominican Church in Mosul.
That year, for security reasons, the most precious works and the 850 oldest manuscripts in Aramaic, Arabic, and Armenian were transferred to Qaraqosh, a predominantly Christian city located 30 km from Mosul.
At the end of July 2014, the advance of Daesh – which had already conquered Mosul on June 9 – forced the Dominicans to proceed with the transfer of manuscripts and ancient books to the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, to save them from the iconoclastic devastations perpetrated by the jihadists.
On the night of August 6-7, 2014, Fr. Najeeb Michaeel fled and went to Erbil, along with thousands of Christians from the plains of Nineveh. In a van, he took away a number of manuscripts and ancient documents of inestimable value.
In the years that followed, the Dominican priest oversaw the work of restoring ancient manuscripts and books in Erbil.