By Terry Mattingly
The small chapel in ancient Dura, near the Euphrates River in western Syria, is not a spectacular historical site that tourists from around the world travel to see.
However, the diggings yielded priceless insights into life in an early Christian community, and a synagogue as well, in the days before Dura was abandoned in 257 A.D. The frescoes, for example, include an image of Christ the Good Shepherd -- one of the earliest surviving images of Jesus in Christian art.
Then came the Islamic State. Has the Good Shepherd fresco been destroyed?
"Religious heritage sites throughout ISIS-held areas of Iraq and Syria have been suffering enormous damage and face constant risk," said Katharyn Hanson of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, in a recent House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing. "The targeted extermination of religious minorities by ISIS results in mass death and also the erasure of the outward manifestations of the minority religious culture, threatening the continuity of their religious practices."