Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
Fides reported on an eyewitness account of three Christians killed following the incursion of jihadist fighters in the ancient Syrian Christian village of Maalula where Aramaic is sitll spoken.
The survivor of the attack on a Christian home offered a horrific picture of the unfolding events in the village.
According to what the woman told Fides, the armed groups enter many homes of civilians on September 7, destroying and terrorizing people, damaging all the sacred images. In one house there were three Greek Catholic men Mikhael Taalab, his cousin Antoun Taalab, Sarkis el Zakhm, Mikhael’s grandson, and the woman A. , their relative, who says what happened. The Islamists warned everyone present to convert to Islam. Sarkis answered clearly: "I am a Christian and if you want to kill me because I am a Christian, do it". The young man together with the other two were killed cold bloodedly. The woman was injured and was saved by a miracle, later taken to hospital in Damascus. "What Sarkis did is true martyrdom, a death in odium fidei", said Sister Carmel to Fides, among the Christians of Damascus who assist the displaced in Maalula. Those present at the funeral were very moved. Today 's displaced in Maalula, mostly in Damascus, emphasizes the nun, " ask to be able to return to their homes, in peace and security".
The New York Times reported earlier this week on the jihadist incursion into the village here.
UPDATE 9/14: The UK's Telegraph offers a harrowing portrait of the state of Maalula in the wake of the incursion.
On Sunday thousands of Christians should have filled its streets for the festival of the Holy Cross. But instead the streets of Maaloula are filled with soldiers and tanks, spent bullet casings and the noise of Syria's latest front-line fight.
Maaloula is a special place. It has been a safe haven for Christians for 2,000 years - until now. It was a place of refuge so secure in its rugged mountain isolation that a dialect of the language of Christ, Aramaic, is still spoken here. But not today.
Its Christian community of 2,000 has fled. In the tight alleyways and streets that wind up the Maaloula's mountainside their language has been replaced by the Arabic of two bitter enemies: rebels from three Islamist groups and the soldiers of President Bashar al-Assad.
Another story, which recalls the plight of Jews in Syria -- most already in exile -- was posted on National Reivew. Lela Gilbert, author of Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner, reminds readers of
the expulsion of 850,000 Jews who fled or were forced to leave Muslim countries in the mid 20th century. I juxtapose this underreported tragedy with the present persecution of Christians in those same lands.
Gilbert draws attention to the the events in Maalula:
Even as America and Russia continue their danse macabre around WMD accusations, Syria’s ancient Christian village of Maalula has been attacked by rebel forces — some of them affiliated with al-Qaeda. On September 11, a source inside the country reported to Nina Shea at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom:
More than 30 Christians are missing, 6 have been killed, we have the names of 3 of them. The Mor Serkis monastery has been bombed, but we don’t know about the damage. Most of the residents fled to Damascus, those who have not been able to get out of their houses because of ongoing fights between opposition groups and Syrian military, remained in Maalula. The Jabhat al Nusra, Free Syrian Army and the Syrian army occupied Maalula.