Why Islamic State (ISIS) is Trying to Annihilate Christianity in the Middle East
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
MAALOULA, SYRIA (ANS – May 13, 2016) – Fanatical Islamic terrorists are committing “genocide” against Christians, especially in Iraq and Syria, in a bid to annihilate all traces of Christianity in the region.
With daily news of rapes, beheadings and destruction that Islamic State (ISIS), and other radical Islamists are committing against the Christians of the Middle East, there is finally some good news from the region.
Miraculously, the people of Maaloula, Syria, which is one of the world’s oldest Christian cities, have survived. However, CBN News found that preserving the town’s Christian heritage came with a heavy cost.
According to a CBN video report by Gary Lane, the CBN News Senior International Reporter, “Maaloula is an ancient Christian city where the people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Located 35 miles northeast of the Syrian capital city of Damascus, Islamic terrorists overran and occupied Maaloula in September 2013.
“Because of its ancient history, Maaloula has become a symbol of Christianity. That’s why Islamic extremists wanted to dominate it because it is this symbol for all of Syria. And that’s why it was important for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to regain control of the city.”
Lane said that the Syrian army “fought aggressively” and “liberated Maaloula eight months after the terrorists seized control.” But, he added, the town had already suffered much hardship and destruction.
“Jihadists left St. George’s Church in Maaoula largely intact, but they did their damage to the interior, including some of the church’s ancient icons,” said veteran journalist, Lane.
“Terrorists tried to erase the city’s Christian heritage by shooting up the icons. They used knives to desecrate a depiction of the Last Supper. They knocked down a statue of Jesus and broke it into pieces.”
And, he added, the terror inflicted on human lives proved even more devastating.
“They came here to convert the Christians to Islam, and they wanted to destroy Maaloula because it is Christian,” Maryam El Zakhm told CBN News. “They shouted ‘Allahu Akbar!’ They were from Chechnya, Egypt, Libya, from everywhere – Tunis, Algeria. They came with long hair, long beards and scary faces.”
She was at home when Islamic jihadists armed with automatic weapons and grenades approached her doorstep.
“They attacked my house and started screaming ‘come out you Christian pigs!’ I knew they planned to take our daughters, rape and kill them,” she recalled. “So, I thought of killing my daughters and then myself before they could get to us. I then prayed to God instead and asked Him to give us a chance to leave the house.”
She and her family escaped out a back door just moments before the terrorists stormed their home.
Lane went on to say that Father Toufic Eid is the parish priest of St. George’s Greek Melkite Catholic Church, and told CBN News, “We had a lot of fear, in fact, at that time and people began to leave Maaloula. In fact, six men were kidnapped. We still do not know their fate.”
They also kidnapped 15 nuns and kept them captive three months before they were freed in a prisoner exchange. Other Christians, however, were not so fortunate.
He said that restoration efforts continue at Saint Sarkis Monastery. It’s one of the oldest monasteries in all of Christendom. It was heavily damaged by the terrorists, but today it is mostly restored.
“The monastery chapel remains intact. Built in the 4th century on the ruins of a pagan temple, it predates the Council of Nicea in 325 AD,” Lane said. “Missing today are 16th and 18th century icons that once adorned the chapel walls. The jihadists may have either sold or destroyed them.”
And Maryam says the terrorists could have easily massacred Maaloula’s Christians, but God intervened.
“I believe prayer had an effect. By your prayers, we were protected,” she said.
While many buildings have been restored, it will take longer for the people to rebuild their lives.
“My daughter has nightmares and screams in the middle of the night, and said, ‘they’re coming to kill us!’” said Maryam.
While Father Toufic remains optimistic, he knows the Christians of Maaloula still face many challenges as fighting continues in their country.
“We are rising again. We are rising again…This is a step of faith in fact. To have hope. Pray for us to have more hope, more hope because the difficulties are so much in fact,” he said.
Lane said that Maryam also requested prayer from Christians worldwide.
“Pray that God will not only restore peace to Maaloula, but to all of Syria,” she said.
To watch the entire CBN News video, please go to: http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2016/may/ancient-christian-city-in-syria-rising-again?cpid=EU_CWN.
Photo captions: 1) The ancient Syrian city of Maaloula rises again. 2) Maryam El Zakhm telling her story (CBN News). 3) Children can now again happily play in the streets of Maaloula. (CBN News) 4) Father Toufic Eid, the parish priest of St. George’s Greek Melkite Catholic Church. (CBN News). 5) Dan Wooding reporting from outside the Kurdistan Parliament in Erbil in Northern Iraq.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and the author or co-author of some 45 books. Dan has a radio show and two TV shows, all based in Southern California. He has traveled widely in the Middle East and his last reporting trip to the region for ANS was to Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, including its capital city of Erbil.
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