September 27, 2013
Beheading Christians Not Just For Romans
Its just a little ironic that now they are the ones torturing and murdering Christians in the city that once was famous for producing one of the first Martyrs for Christ at the hands of Rome.
It is a terrible story in this most beautiful of towns, with its 17 churches and holy relics and its great cliff-side caves. Now the fighters of Jabhat al-Nusra – a rebel group with links to al-Qa’ida – are surviving in the caves and shooting down at the Syrian soldiers in Maaloula’s streets with Russian sniper rifles. You have to run from house to house, and one bullet smashed the windscreen of a parked car scarcely 10 metres from the balcony on which Georgios was telling his awful story. Up the road, a mortar round – apparently fired by Nusrah men – has torn a hole in the dome of a church. The Syrian army says it has driven the Islamists from Maaloula, which is technically true; but to leave the town, I had to ride in the back of a military armoured vehicle. It is not a famous victory for anyone.To take a page from AQI's propaganda, "but the hypocrites know not."
Not one of the 5,000 Christian residents – nor a single member of the 2,000-strong Muslim community – has returned. Maaloula is, almost literally, a ghost town. Only Georgios and his friend Hanna and a few other local Christian men who joined the “national defence” units to defend their homes, are left. At least 10 Christians were murdered when the Nusra militia began its series of attacks on Maaloula on 4 September, some of them shot – according to Hanna – when they refused to convert to Islam, others dispatched with a knife in the throat. And there is a terrifying historical irony about their deaths, for they were slaughtered within sight of the Mar Sarkis monastery, sacred to the memory of a Roman soldier called Sergius who was executed for his Christian beliefs 2,000 years ago.
Qaeda al-Jihad has become a parody of its own propaganda.