Karbala - Prayers and Christian hymns along with the reading of verses from the Koran echoed among the ruins of the church of Al Aqiser, in the area of Karbala, the holy city of Shiite Islam. All this took place on Monday 17 June, and the initiative was implemented by a group of Chaldean Christians who came on pilgrimage to what remains of the church which dates back to the 5th century a.C., considered among the oldest Christian places of worship in the Middle East. With their prayers, the members of the group asked the Lord for the gift of peace, the end of conflicts and release from all sectarianism.
Located in the west of Karbala, the archaeological site certifies the presence in the region of flourishing Christian communities, dating back to pre-Islamic times. "The existence of this church is a clear sign of the coexistence among the peoples of this country, until today", declared Chaldean priest Maysar Behnam.
The ruins of the church have resurfaced from the desert thanks to archaeological excavations carried out in the seventies of the last century. In the past, Iraqi Christian groups used to go on pilgrimage during Christmas time.
In Karbala, every year, tens of millions of Muslim Shiite pilgrims flock to commemorate the killing of Husayn ibn Ali, Mohammad's grandson and considered by the Shiites the third legitimate imam, killed in Karbala in 680 a. C. together with 72 of his followers from the troops of the Umayyad caliph Yazid I.