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.Read it all.
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 In the tight alleyways and streets that wind up the Maaloula's mountainside their language has been replaced by the Arabic of two bitter enemies: rebels from three Islamist groups and the soldiers of President Bashar al-Assad.
The rebels claim they took Maaloula to punish the Christians there for supporting the Assad government, a support that is real but tepid. For most Christians in Syria the fear of what Islamists might do if they win this war outweighs any dislike they have for Assad's system.
On Saturday, in a Damascus church heavy with gold and grief, they mourned the Christians killed in the battle. The framed photographs of the dead sat next to the holy icons of the Greek Orthodox faith, some men in the pews bandaged from injuries they'd received. "We blame Obama", one woman in black yelled at me, "he should have the Nobel peace prize taken away from him - he is helping the rebels who killed our Christian brothers".
This being Sunday, let's see what my denomination has to say. Well... uh... there is this standard issue "I do not believe further violence is likely to end the tragedy" boilerplate from The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori,
I applaud President Obama’s restraint and willingness to look for diplomatic solutions — changing position requires courage of the first order. It is a sign of profoundly care-filled leadership both to test the possibility of other, more creative and life-giving solutions and to put the needs of vulnerable populations ahead of one’s own image or reputation.