CHRISTIANS REUNITE AT CHRISTMAS IN ALEPPO

In the grieving city of Aleppo, Christmas brought hope to many Christians.

For the first time in five years Christians gathered by a giant Christmas tree to celebrate the birth of Jesus. In the war ravaged St. Elias Cathedral located on what was long the frontline in Aleppo’s historic Old City, priests prayed for peace at the first Christmas Eve Mass for five years, attended by dozens of worshippers, including some Russian officers.

The once controlled rebel city has witnesses incomprehensible horror, day and night firing and shelling between government armed forces and rebel forces brought down the historic and economic city to total destruction. Children, men and women experienced severe hardship with many migrating to Europe as refugee. Under the worst social conditions the people of Aleppo managed to survival. The population has significantly depleted with the Christian population shrinking to around 50,000 from 250,000.

George Bakhash, a Christian community leader described the festive season as “a great moment” he believes the birth for Jesus Christ  will usher in a new birth for the city of Aleppo. He said the numbers attending mass across the city had surged-now that worshippers no longer feared missiles from rebel-held areas.

The fall of rebel-held east Aleppo was the biggest victory of Syria’s nearly six-year-old civil war. Many Syrian Christians supported the government in the civil war, viewing Assad, a member of a Shi’ite-derived minority sect, as a protector against rebel fighters mainly drawn from Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority. Although some Christians stayed on the sidelines of the civil war, many saw the rise of Islamic State and other Sunni Muslim insurgent groups as a threat to the very existence of their communities, some as old as the bible.

Hundreds of people danced and celebrated in the Azizya neighbourhood, where the public Christmas tree had gone unlit since rebels took the eastern half of the city in 2012. Giant posters of Assad and his Christian ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin was carried around. A woman identified as the mother of slain Syrian soldier believes his son’s soul “is in peace now because Aleppo has been liberated”

 

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