May 16, 2016 by Will Maule

Ancient Christian City Is Rising From The Ashes In War-torn Syria

Rape, beheadings and destruction. ISIS and other radical Islamists are committing horrific genocidal atrocities against Christians in the Middle East. But incredibly, the people of one of the world's oldest Christian cities have survived, reports CBN.

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. The Syrian army fought aggressively and liberated Maaloula eight months after the terrorists seized control. But the town had already been largely brought to its knees by the militants. 

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. But the war waged on the individuals who inhabit the city was even more heartbreaking.

"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 Chechneya, Egypt, Libya, from everywhere – Tunis, Algeria. They came with long hair, long beards and scary faces." 

The terrorists came to El Zakhm's house, demanding that they leave. "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. Father Toufic Eid of the St. George's Greek Melkite Catholic Church talked of the fear the community experienced. "We had a lot of fear, in fact, at that time and people began to leave Maaloula," he told CBN News. "In fact, six men were kidnapped. We still do not know their fate."

Amazingly, 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. Missing today are 16th and 18th century icons that once adorned the chapel walls. The jihadists may have either sold or destroyed them.

Maryam believes that God intervened to save many of the Christians from being killed. "I believe prayer had an effect. By your prayers, we were protected," she said. Even though ISIS are nowhere to be seen, Maryam says that the terror is far from over. "My daughter has nightmares and screams in the middle of the night, 'they're coming to kill us!" 

Father Toufic: "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."

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