Paris – 5 March. On the eve of the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Iraq, UNESCO welcomes a historic event and an important step for the reconstruction and stabilization of the country. This visit comes at a decisive moment in the project carried out by UNESCO since 2018 to “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” and rebuild the cultural and educational fabric of this war-torn city. Through the restoration of heritage sites, the strengthening of the education system and the rehabilitation of cultural life, UNESCO and its partners are contributing to the recovery of Mosul in close collaboration with the people of Mosul.
For centuries, Mosul has been a symbol of cultural and religious diversity and coexistence. The Pope’s visit is a powerful symbol of solidarity and dialogue, a strong sign for peace. It encourages UNESCO in its efforts to rebuild and rehabilitate the city with its inhabitants.
Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General
UNESCO is rehabilitating several places of worship in Mosul, such as the Al-Tahera and Al-Saa’a churches, of great importance to the Christian community and representative of the religious diversity that has distinguished the city for centuries, along with the Al Nouri Mosque and its Al-Hadba minaret, all of which were destroyed by the Islamic State group that occupied the city for three years.
An international architectural competition has just been launched for the reconstruction of the mosque complex. Beyond the rehabilitation of monuments, UNESCO is also rehabilitating historic houses in the old city of Mosul. UNESCO has launched several large-scale initiatives for the restoration of the education system and the prevention of violent extremism through education. The rehabilitation of cultural life is also at the heart of efforts to restore cohesion and the social fabric, and to provide a sustainable response to extremist violence.
UNESCO’s initiative “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” also benefits women and men in Mosul through employment and training opportunities. During his visit, the Pope will also go to the city of Ur, one of the seven components of the Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2016. This city, which saw the beginnings of writing and monumental architecture, illustrates the contribution of Southern Mesopotamia cultures to the development of humanity.