Monday, August 24, 2015

ISIS Blows Up Ancient Temple in Syrian Ruins

ISIS is continuing its campaign to destroy ruins and priceless artifacts from the past that relate to non-Islamic religious traditions.  The latest lost treasure are the ruins of the Temple of Baalshamin, part of the ancient ruins of Palmyra, which was blown up by the religious extremists of ISIS.  While the world is stunned by such behavior, everyone would do well to remember that what ISIS is doing has a long history.  Travel to Greece and see scatter churches doting the countryside that were built where pagan temples had existed before the Roman Catholic and then Orthodox Church had them destroyed.  Travel to Mexico City and visit the city's main cathedral  that sits on the site of the former great temple of the Aztecs.  Sadly, throughout time succeeding religious cults and traditions have felt it necessary to stamp out reminders that other beliefs have existed and in some cases held sway for far longer periods of time than more modern cults/inventions such as Islam.   The New York Times looks at this latest travesty done in the name of religion.  Here are excerpts:

Militants from the Islamic State destroyed a temple in the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria, activists and government officials said on Sunday, continuing a pattern of destruction that they have visited upon historical sites across the territory they control there and in Iraq.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist and monitoring group based in Britain, said Sunday in a statement that Islamic State fighters detonated “a large quantity of explosives” that they had arranged around the Temple of Baalshamin, one of the most grand and well-preserved structures in the sprawling complex of ruins. A government official told reporters that it was heavily damaged by the blast.

The temple stood “dozens of meters” away from a Roman amphitheater where the Islamic State held a mass execution, killing 25 prisoners, in a video released last month, the activist group said. The entire ancient city of Palmyra is a Unesco World Heritage site.

The destruction of the temple is just the latest in a string of horrors that the Islamic State has inflicted upon Palmyra since seizing the city in May. Last week, the group beheaded Khalid al-Asaad, 83, who had served as the chief of the city’s antiquities department for more than 50 years. After they killed him, Islamic State militants strung his headless body as a warning to others. Last month, the group demolished half a dozen ancient statues, smashing them with sledge hammers, and in June they blew up two historic tombs.

The Syrian government rushed to bring as many antiquities as possible from the city to the relative safety of Damascus before it fell to the Islamic State, but left behind many more of the city’s archaeological treasures, not to mention thousands of its residents.

Members of the Islamic State consider artifacts that date from before the birth of Islam to be symbols of paganism that must be destroyed, although they have in the past sold some of the more valuable ones that fall under their control as a way to help finance operations.

The Temple of Baalshamin was built more than 2,000 years ago and was dedicated to the Phoenician god Baalshamin.

As I have said so often, religion has been a great evil throughout history.  ISIS is reminding us of this reality.  We need to remember the blood on the hands of Christianity and the past destruction done in the name of God. 

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