The Christian Church in the Syrian city of Maaloula (Ma’loula) has commenced services in the Christian monastery of St. Thecla.
The pilgrims from all around the world traveled to religious shrines before the war. It was almost completely destroyed and looted by ISIS and Al-Nusra Front.
When under pressure from the Syrian Arab army the Retreating Islamists took everything valuable from the temples, including ancient icons, historical manuscripts, icon lamps and altar-cross, church furnishings, tombstones and other valuable items.
The militants destroyed everything they could not hastily take along; some of the buildings were burned. After the liberation under the support of the government of Syria the citizens of Maaloula started rebuilding churches, assembling church furnishings, religious books and other objects piece by piece.
While in the city there is no influx of tourists and worshippers but locals are sure that people from all over the world, pilgrims, will be able to visit holy places again with the onset of peace and the creation of zones of de-escalation.
But the Christians try not only to rebuild Maaloula, they try to rebuild the relationship between them and the Muslims shattered by ISIS.
A Syrian priest reiterates the fact that Christians will strive to rebuild the trust that has been tainted by violence perpetrated by Islamic State. “We have to rebuild trust between Muslims and Christians even if it’s not easy,” said a Syrian priest Father Mtanios Haddad.
Expressing optimism for a return to his homeland, he said: “We’ll be back, yes. We will return to Iraq, to Mosul, to Syria, to Maalula, to Beirut and to every place we have lived. They are our homes and our lands. So, what are we going to leave them for? To whom? To what civilization? We must go back and rebuild trust between ourselves little by little. Even if it’s not easy.”
Father Haddad is a Syrian and represents the Greek-Catholic patriarch in Rome. According to him, presence of Christianity in the Middle East is not optional but a necessity. “I am convinced that coexistence will not end,” he said.
“It should not end, because if it does, there will be no Christian presence. Without this presence, a new Jihad war could begin between a Muslim East and a Christian West. This Christian presence is what ensures the victory of balance and coexistence,” he explained.
Maaloula is ancient city where most of the inhabitants speak the language of Jesus Christ, the Semitic Aramaic. It is located in the Rif Dimashq Governorate in Syria, 56 km to the northeast of Damascus, and built into the rugged mountainside, at an altitude of more than 1500 m. It is known as one of three remaining villages where Western Aramaic is still spoken, the other two being the nearby villages Jubb’adin and Al-Sarkha (Bakhah).