Voices from Russia

Friday, 27 September 2013

27 September 2013. Update on Ma’loula…

00 Syrian nun in Ma'aloula. 08.09.13


On Tuesday, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East said that battles between government troops and rebel forces trapped nearly 40 nuns and orphans inside a convent in the Syrian Christian town of Ma’loula. The famed town, where residents still speak Aramaic, the language reputedly spoke by Jesus Christ, was the scene of clashes since earlier this month. The Damascus-based Patriarchate said in a statement, “The Mar Takla convent is living through painful days because it’s in the middle of the zone where fire is being exchanged, which makes getting supplies difficult and dangerous. The generator has gone out because of the fighting, halting the supply of water to the convent and threatening the lives of those inside”. It issued an “urgent appeal” to humanitarian groups to “ensure the necessary supplies to residents of the convent, nuns and orphans, who number close 40 people”.

The convent is located half-way between the hills of Ma’loula, which are still under rebel control, and the centre of the town, which government forces retook. Syrian opposition forces, including jihadist fighters, took control of Ma’loula on 9 September. Three days later, the Syrian army entered the town, retaking part of it, but it failed to secure it entirely. Picturesque Ma’loula, nestled under a large cliff, is symbolic of the Christian presence in Syria. Since the fighting began in the town, most of its 5,000 residents fled to neighbouring villages or to Damascus.


Christians and Muslims always lived in an atmosphere of mutual trust; the attack on Ma’loula created a lot of distress. Islamists invaded homes and they continue to threaten the village, which is the site of continuing clashes between rebels and the army. The families who fled to Damascus and Beirut told their story. The jihadists’ goal is to drive out Christians in order to eliminate Christianity. According to families who fled Ma’loula (Syria), some of their Muslim neighbours were involved in the attack that devastated their village located about 50 kilometres (31 miles) from Damascus, dispersing its residents. They perceived it as a betrayal of the long-lasting trust that existed between Christians and Muslims in Ma’loula, where Muslims make up about 30 per cent of the village population. The presence of young Muslim fighters from the village amongst the Syrian rebels appalled the Christian population. However, it’s a sign of the growing ambiguity of Syria’s armed rebellion. These facts give that battles that occurred in Ma’loula from 3 to 7 September another perspective.

Speaking for the first time anonymously, survivors from Ma’loula described how elements from the Syrian Liberation Army and the al-Nusra Front coordinated their attack in an attempt to take control of the town. The explosion of a car driven by a suicide bomber at an army checkpoint at the village entrance was the signal for the attack. Almost immediately, armed rebel groups sprung out from within Ma’loula, smashing doors to gain entrance into Christian homes. With dramatic details, witnesses describe the climate of terror that prevailed, the summary execution on Saturday of three men who, after a failed attempt by the Syrian army to retake Ma’loula, refused to recant their faith, as well as the kidnapping of six others, whose fate remains unknown to this day.

One of the survivors reported that rebels invaded her house almost immediately after the car’s explosion at an army checkpoint. Rebels came into the house and moved around as if they were familiar with the place. After she escaped with her husband and their daughter to the rearmost room of their home, the attackers went there, too, claiming that they’d smashed the statue of the Virgin Mary at the entrance of the house. A stifled sob in her throat, she remembered how she wished to die rather than see daughter raped before her own eyes. Fortunately, her fears weren’t realised.  Nevertheless, she does remember that the rebels forced her husband to recant his Christian faith with the barrel of an assault rifle at his head. When she remembered how US Secretary of State John Kerry described the SLA forces as “moderate” before a US Senate committee, she shook her head in a sign of weariness over such ignorance or bad faith. In her eyes, the Western press seemed to have lost all credibility.

According to some analysts, the climate of euphoria that accompanied the prospect of American punitive strikes against Syria might’ve encouraged the attack against Ma’loula. However, a counteroffensive by the regular army, supported by village youth, followed by a last minute unexplained pullback, proved even more devastating. The Christian officer who ordered the withdrawal was arrested Ma’loula residents say. The families who fled the village took refuge mainly in Bab Touma, the Christian quarter of Damascus, but some joined relatives in the Lebanon or the convents of the Greek Catholic Church in that country. Reportedly, no Christian refugees are living in tents.

Today, the people of this village, a living icon of Christ’s time since his language, Aramaic, is spoken there, are temporarily dispersed. A liturgy was served for them at the headquarters of the Greek Catholic archbishop in Beirut on the feast day of St Thekla (24 September), “Equal-to-the-Apostles” according to a tradition associated with Ma’loula. Despite the reassuring presence of a Syrian army checkpoint, the village is within firing range of rebels hiding in the surrounding higher ground. According to eyewitness accounts, rebels rolled burning tires down the hill towards some of the houses in the Christian Quarter, and gunmen fired at fuel tanks near homes in order to set them on fire. These actions are a clear signal to Christians that they’re no longer welcome in their own town. Now, reeds are growing in Ss Saris and Bathos Greek Catholic Monastery, a place no one can approach now. From a distance, one can see that the cross on its dome is broken and that part of the building bears traces of fire. We know nothing about the fate of the 10th century icons it housed. It’s been a time of painful days for Mar Takla (St Thekla) Orthodox Monastery as well. Located between the Ma’loula hill held by the rebels and the army-held central square, the monastic complex houses 40 nuns and orphans. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East in Damascus called on all parties to facilitate the supply of provisions to the residents.

In some church circles, some wonder why the rebels seized Ma’loula in the first place given its lack of military significance. They wonder if, in addition to the Christians in this village, Christianity itself was targeted through the Aramaic-speaking community, as the Taliban in Afghanistan did when they destroyed the giant Buddha statues, believing that by doing so they’d eradicate ancient beliefs and superstitions, totally insensitive to religious or even cultural diversity. There’s no doubt, indeed, that the dispersion of Ma’loula’s Christian community endangers the priceless cultural legacy that the town, by its very existence, represents.

 24/27 September 2013





Editor’s Note:

The USA supports the jihadist filth who threaten Ma’loula, and, indeed, all the Christians and Alawis of Syria. Never forget that even though the Interventionist Democrats are bad, the Republican Neocons are worse, as their goal is global hegemony for the oligarchs of the transnational corporations. Russia and China stand against this plot… that’s why they’re hated and vilified in the American media, both “liberal” and “conservative”. Christiane Amanpour and Sean Hannity are siblings under the flesh. They’re both soulless whores for their oligarch paymasters, who’ll say anything if they’re paid enough dengi.

Remember this… the USA supports those who inflict the Golgotha of Ma’loula. If that doesn’t tell you that the clique running the West hates all those who refuse to bow down to them and become willing acolytes of Mammon the Great, nothing will. You can stand with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill or you can stand with Barack Obama and John McCain. If you’re Orthodox, you’ll stand with HH… ‘nuff said…

Remember Ma’loula… that’s what the zapadniki want to do to all of us in the end…



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