Destruction of Religious Sense of Place

In A Sense of Place, 9. Placelessness by Leslie1 Comment

I was writing a paper about a tomb/ sacred place that was destroyed by ISIS in July 2014, and I thought this was a great topic to talk about for placelessness. ISIS destroyed The Mosque of Nabi Yunus, also called Jonah’s Tomb. This was a place where many Muslims, Christians and Jews since the 4th century took pilgrimages to. In 7th century BC, the King of the Neo-Assyrian Empire built a huge palace. In 4th century BC, the Church of the East, built a Church and a shrine in the name of the Prophet Jonah. Jonah was this guy who believed that people should be punished for their sins regardless if they feel sorry about it. Throughout his journey, God tries to teach him that you must forgive people and allow people to feel bad and ask for forgiveness. Many people went to Jonah’s Tomb to embrace their faith and learn the lessons that were taught to Jonah.

After July 2014, when ISIS destroyed the tomb, people could not take pilgrimages there. The tom is now all rumble and is indistinguishable. The shrine and the church were the physical objects carrying the sense of place that Jonah’s Tomb had, so when destroyed, it was gone. Pilgrimages are not only about getting closer to god (which is something you could, potentially do at home), but also about going to these physical places and learn. Without a physical place to go, thousands of people that went to the shrine, cannot go there anymore.

Image result for JOnah's TOmb

(Before ISIS destroyed Jonah’s Tomb)

This is interesting to look at because although the teachings of Jonah are in the old testament and are known stories, the tomb itself was the representation for Jonah.  Just like Mecca and Jerusalem, without these sacred/ religious places, people have no physical object to tie something to, and can’t fulfill what they need to continue their religious journeys (often times).

Across Central Asia and the Middle East, ISIS has been destroying and defacing sacred places which stir a lot of issue in religious communities. For Muslims, one of their Five Pillars is to take a pilgrimage to Mecca. If someone had destroyed it, it would raise a lot of issues. ISIS has destroyed from Buddhist temples, to Christian shrines, to even Islam related places.

I believe the destruction of many of these religious places won’t be permanent problem causers and will begin to shift a lot of the world religions from being external faith and proof of belief to a more private and one on one connection to God, or whatever deity that is believed in.


  1. Hi, Leslie, I find your reflection to be super interesting due to the attachment that we create to religious spaces and the sudden disappearing of them. As someone who as lost their home from one day to another, I feel sympathy to those who find themselves at loss when they cannot got to their religious temple. Many of these spaces become large parts of people’s lives and, even of, entire cities. Many identities and communities rely on religious spaces and it is disheartening to see their destruction. Thank you — A

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