The most informative but saddening news about Maaloula is from the Tass News agency below:
Also, it should not have come as a shock or a surprise for Maaloula Christians (see last link) to see their Muslim neighbours turning against them and in fact being complicit in the planning and execution of the attack and invasion of Maaloula. There's no excuse for self-imposed dhimmihood.
MAALOULA, Syria, September 29 (Itar-Tass) - Syrian militants have annihilated one of the most ancient active Christian churches in the world and have either stolen or destroyed its widely acclaimed icons, Itar-Tass correspondent covering the crisis in Syria said in his eyewitness dispatch from the small town of Maaloula, known as one of a handful of places where people still speak and pray in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago…
The Church in the name of St Sergius and St Bacchus, two Roman warriors put to death for their faith in Christ during the reign of Emperor Maximilian, was built at the beginning of the 4th century. Most recently, its compound was housing a convent but the nuns had to resettle urgently to the Convent of St Thecla, also in Maaloula, about a month ago when militants of the Jabhat at-Nusra terrorist front drove into the town.
The nuns and about forty orphaned children are still taking shelter in Mar Takla, as the convent is known in Arabic. It is totally impossible to approach its territory even now, as the militants open dense fire from sniping rifles, sparing no one including journalists.
The problem is that standing nearby the St Sergius and Bacchus’s Church /called by the local residents Mar Sarkis or Abu Serga/ is the hotel Safir that provided accommodation to numerous Christian pilgrims and tourists in the past but was then seized by Islamic extremists.
Syrian government troops have practically razed the building to the ground but the militants are still hiding out in its basement floors and in the adjoining caves, which the Christians monks reshaped into cells.
The dwellings that were once the hermitages for contemplation of divine issues and prayer have now turned into reinforced positions for incessant firing.
The list of works of art and historic relics that have been lost forever in Mar Sarkis includes the invaluable icon of St Sergius painted in the 13th century that the believers and visitors could see earlier right at the entrance. The iconostasis and its central icons of the Virgin Mary with Jesus the Hierarch have been scourged.
The latter icon always amazed researchers for the fact it showed Jesus wearing a long silk dress with gold threads - a style of icon-painting much more typical of the 18th century Damascus than of the earliest centuries of Christianity.
The altar of the church dedicated to St Sergius and Bacchus does not exist anymore either. Its semicircular shape and the small enough flange were clearly indicative of its linkage to pagan altars.
Only fragments of it remain today.
It is a really wild guess forecasting how much time and efforts the experts will need to estimate the damage inflicted on this religious shrine and its unparalleled relics ............
Does Pompey th Great's involvement in Syria resonate today? In light of Maaloula,I wrote this for Oct @StandpointMag http://t.co/TWoPIVWJ2g
— Daisy Dunn (@DaisyfDunn) September 30, 2013
Daisy Dunn at standPointMag:
Syrian rebel groups recently attacked the ancient village of Maaloula, near Damascus, one of the few places where Aramaic is still spoken, and where Muslims and Christians had been living in peaceful coexistence. Among the buildings said to have been hit in the struggle is the convent of St Thecla, a follower of the Apostle Paul, whose vision famously took place when Saul of Tarsus (as he still was) travelled the road from Jerusalem to Damascus to persecute Jewish-Christians. It has been reported that the rebels in Maaloula ordered Christian residents to convert to Islam.
The incident has sounded a further cautionary note against Western support of rebels opposing Bashar al-Assad's regime. But the ancient history of the region complicates the question of how far our involvement in Syria can be dictated by the potential reaction of rebel forces..........
Video: Maaloula was religious cleansing, not a military target http://t.co/WFD5qkeF81
— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) September 28, 2013
Ed Morrissey writing at HotAir:
.... Maaloula was religious cleansing, not a military target. Rebels overran the ancient Christian village of Maaloula in Syria on the fourth of September, and held it for eleven days until the Syrian army could retake it. It always made for a curious target in a broad civil war. Maaloula had no particular strategic value; it’s 56 kilometers north of Damascus in rugged mountain territory, enough of a backwater that it’s one of the few places where Aramaic is still spoken along with Arabic. It’s off the highway between Damascus and Homs, and away from the railroad that links the two Syrian cities. Why bother with Maaloula at all?...............
Lee Stranahan writing at WashingtonExaminer:
....A woman who survived an assault by Syrian rebel coalition forces says that her small village of Maaloula was terrorized by anti-Christian Islamic jihadists....
.... Additionally, residents reported that relatives were kidnapped by rebel forces. Kidnappings have become a common tactic across Syria for rebels to raise money or use as bargaining chips for possible future negotiations
Maloulaa has been almost completely abandoned by Christian residents in the aftermath of the rebel attack. It once had a population of about 3,300 people but now is nearly empty.......
Maaloula. I saw myself last week how perverse was this assault on the largely Christian Syrian town #Christian homes, crucifixes h b smashed
— adnan hobalah (@adnanhobalah) September 30, 2013
Robert Fisk writing at Independent:
...The Diab family can never return to Maaloula. Not since the Christians of this beautiful and sacred town saw their Muslim neighbours leading the armed Nusrah Islamists to their homes. Georgios remembers how he peered over his balcony and saw Mohamed Diab and Ossama Diab and Yasser Diab and Hossam Diab and Khaled Turkik Qutaiman – all from Maaloula – walking in the street with men whom he said were dressed in Afghan-Pakistani clothes. “One of them had a Kalashnikov rifle in one hand and a sword in the other,” he says, shaking his head in disbelief.
Twenty years ago, identical tragedies destroyed the villages of Bosnia. Now they are being re-enacted in Syria. “We knew our Muslim neighbours all our lives,” Georgios says. He is a Catholic. “Yes, we knew the Diab family were quite radical, but we thought they would never betray us. We ate with them. We are one people.
“A few of the Diab family had left months ago and we guessed they were with the Nusra. But their wives and children were still here. We looked after them. Then, two days before the Nusra attacked, the families suddenly left the town. We didn’t know why. And then our neighbours led our enemies in among us.”.....