Ancient church awaits restoration in Iraq desert





AIN TAMUR, Iraq (AFP) - No-one celebrated Christmas in Al-Aqiser church on Tuesday, for what many consider to be the oldest eastern Christian house of worship lies in ruins in a windswept Iraqi desert.

Armed bandits and looters rule in the region and no one can visit the southern desert around Ain Tamur unescorted, local officials say.

But 1,500 years ago, the first eastern Christians knelt and prayed in this barren land, their faces turned towards Jerusalem.

The remains of Al-Aqiser church lie in the windswept sand dunes of Ain Tamur, around 70 kilometres (40 miles) southwest of the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, forgotten by most.


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