A story from the Middle East to help put some things in perspective:
The Vatican's ambassador to Iraq and a number of monks held the first
mass in 1,500 years in one of the oldest monasteries in the Iraqi city
of al-Hira (south of Najaf), and met with the top Iraqi Shiite cleric,
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Hira had been a spiritual capital for Christians, and was a destination
for monks for more than 500 years before the introduction of Islam to
the country. There are 33 monasteries between Najaf and Kufa, some of
which were only discovered recently. However, the majority of the
monasteries in this region have yet to be rediscovered.
The Christian delegation which included the Vatican's ambassador
Giorgio Lingua, the head of Iraq's Christian Endowment, the endowment's
general inspector and 15 pastors met with Sistani.
The director of the Department of Antiquities in Najaf, Mohammed Hadi Mayali, told Al-Hayat
that "there are more than 60 Christian archaeological sites scattered
throughout al-Hira and Najaf and the surrounding desert. People visit
these sites on a weekly basis."
After Mass was performed at the site of one of the oldest churches in
al-Hira which had only been discovered recently the pastor of the
Chaldean Rising Church said that "this is the first [Christian] prayer
performed in Hira in 1,500 years," adding that "it will be followed by
other visits to all of the Christian sites, where we will hold prayer
and introduce this city to the world."