Pope Francis's visit to the historical city of Ur in Iraq attracted enough media attention but what is the significance of Ur and why should it appeal to the leader of Catholic Church in his three-day visit to Iraq?
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The ancient city of Ur in Dhi Qar, some 300 kilometers south of the capital Baghdad is one of the most important cities, the capital of Sumer civilization and a very active urban centers in Mesopotamia in the third millennium BC.
The ancient city has been named in holy texts as the birthplace of Prophet Abraham (PBUH) a reason likely to be the main inspiration for the papal visit to the ancient city.
Al Jazeera, following the historical trip, broadcasted images of the ancient city saying," Here is where the wheel was invented, the Hammurabi code of laws was issued, the oil was first burnt as a source of energy and centuries later, following production and export of carpets and wool clothes, turned to a hub of economy across the globe.
Ur, also called as Tell el-Muqayyar, has been a key archeology site throughout history, inscribed on UNESCO heritage list in June 2016.
Early 1900s excavations in Ur showed that the local people lived an affluent life due to export of prosperous wheat crops. Archeological excavations are still underway since there are more treasures to delve deeper in the history of one of the early and advanced civilizations in the world.
Excavations in Ur had once halted during the former dictator Saddam Hussein and once after invasion of the Daesh terrorist group though Iraqi and American archeologists have resumed searches as the clashes calmed down.
Amer Abdul Razaq, director of Nasiriyah Museum detailed the reasons why Ur is significantly appealing to Christians, Jews and Muslims: Here is the birthplace of Prophet Abraham (PBUH), a fact referred to by both the Torah and holy Bible. All religions define Prophet Abraham (PBUH) as their spiritual father; therefore, a visit to the ancient site is one of the key religious rituals and a pilgrimage, particularly for the Christians.
He said," Studies by American archeologists have revealed there are more than 15,000 archeological sites across Iraq, 1,200 of them in Nasiriyah, the sum of archeological sites in France and Italy."
But the reason behind the historical visit by Pope Francis to Ur is beyond archeological attractions, more of boosting the spirit of Christians in Iraq whose number has decreased due to years of war and abuses and certainly to strengthen coexistence between Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities.
Pope Francis, in his visit to Ur, held joint religious ceremony attended by leaders and followers of Abrahamic religions, ""prayer of the sons and daughters of Abraham, at the birthplace of Prophet Abraham and listened to verses of holy Qur'an. Then he said," Hostility, extremism and violence do not come from a spiritual spirit since they are all treachery to religion. There will be no peace without cooperation among people and freedom of thought and religions should be respected by all. Terrorism and violence are not derived from religion but terrorists betray that and misuse it for their own interests."
Leader of Catholic Church stressed," One cannot keep silent against damages of terrorism to religion and invasion of Iraq is in fact invasion to a part of history."