Middle East: An urgent need to restore Churches destroyed in conflicts

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Middle East: An urgent need to restore Churches destroyed in conflicts

By Munir Bayouk/ en.abouna.org

Over the past decade, the Middle East has been plagued by a state of turbulence instability, violence, poverty and local wars which debilitate societies, drive them to abysmal failures, and bring them on the verge of collapse.

The state of instability encouraged extremist groups to exploit the state of insecurity by attacking churches, setting them on fire, and eliminating a centuries-old sites that represent rich civilizations as well as negatively impacting interfaith harmony and common living. Over the past years, efforts have under way to restore these churches, which represent an invaluable heritage in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity.

Christian monuments, museums, and heritage sites have been caught in the cross-fires of ideological conflict. Armed conflicts in the Middle East are now at the heart of political, ideological, and cultural identity issues in the region. Numerous World Heritage sites which have been added to UNESCO World Heritage List are in danger.

THE MARONITE CATHEDRAL OF ST. ELIJAH IN ALEPPO
One of the bright images in the Middle East region is the assiduous efforts under way to restore churches. One of the recently restored churches is the Maronite Cathedral of St. Elijah in Aleppo which was destroyed during the civil war.

In 2013 the extremists targeted the cathedral. When this area of the city was liberated in 2016, a handful of Christians celebrated Christmas there.

Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobij of Aleppo said that the cathedral’s restoration had both a symbolic and a practical significance.

“In the symbolic sense it is a message to the parishioners and Christians in Aleppo and the world that we are still in this country despite our dwindling numbers, and the restoration of the cathedral is proof of this. The mouths must continue to praise God in this place despite all the difficulties,” he said in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

With the help of the pontifical foundation ACN and other institution, the cathedral has been rebuilt in an impressive way.

Executive President of ACN Thomas Heine-Geldrern said, “When we now see the Cathedral of Saint Elias, it is a miracle. It is fantastic that its former splendor shines. Hopefully it will once again be the center of the entire Christian community, as it was until the agonizing war.”

Thomas Heine-Geldern asked the Syrian Christians to enter the new cathedral and to pray for the thousands of benefactors who helped finance these works. In fact, it is wonderful to see the cathedral shining with its former splendor and it is hoped that it will once again become the center of the whole Christian community, just as it was before this war.

While the wound in this cathedral is the first to heal, there is another that will take longer to recover. Before the war, there were around 180,000 Christians in Aleppo. Now there are no more than 30,000. The restoration of this Maronite cathedral represents a new beginning for all of them.

CULTURAL HERITAGE IMPACTED IN SYRIA
Syria has six cultural world heritage sites and they are all on the danger list. The heritage site of Palmyra is an example of the destruction that can come from war. The site was added to the in-danger list in 2013 when it was eventually captured by ISIS.

“World Heritage sites have suffered considerable and sometimes irreversible damage. Four of them have been used for military purposes, namely Palmyra, the Crac des Chevaliers, the Saint Simeon Church in the Ancient villages of Northern Syria, and Aleppo including the Aleppo Citadel.”

It is hoped that peace will be restored in the region, so that all these churches and holy place will resume their roles of praising the Lord for His grace, in the hope that all peoples in the region will enjoy normal life based on equality, justice, freedom of worship, and harmony.

PRAYER
"We pray for our churches and say, “God of life, you have promised to be with us every day, also in difficult days, like in times like these. Give us clarity in our minds, strength in our work and discernment, rest as we sleep, and peace in our minds. Be with those who need help more than we do ourselves, help us to see what we can offer from your love. Be our Shepherd, protect our churches, and help us be active as members in Your Church so as to give salvation to all those who believe in You. Amen.”

Wed, 07/29/2020 - 13:29
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