|SANA/Via EPA - A undated handout picture shows a church in the Maaloula village, northeast of Damascus, Syria. |
Fighters from Free Syrian Army units briefly gained control of ancient Christian Maaloula village,
accounting to reports.
The violence ravaging the rest of Syria has finally caught up with Maaloula, renowned as the oldest Christian community in the world — and the last in which the same version of Aramaic that prevailed 2,000 years ago is the native tongue.
Only a couple of dozen nuns remained, cowering in fear as warplanes screeched overhead, shells exploded and al-Qaeda-linked fighters overran their convent, turning them into witnesses to what may be one of the more extraordinary encounters of the Syrian war.
The monks had fled from their nearby monastery months ago, and even the last two priests who oversaw the affairs of Maaloula’s ancient Mar Takla nunnery took buses out of town last week, leaving the nuns of Maaloula to fend for themselves as the fighters closed in.
With Congress poised to debate President Obama’s proposed military intervention in Syria, the arrival of war in Maaloula illuminates the complexity of a conflict that has defied all attempts at resolution for 21/2 years. The future of Christianity in the region of its birth is just one of the smaller issues at stake in the discussions expected to unfold.