Syriac Christians Celebrate Mass in Deir Ezzor for First Time in Six Years

ICC Note:

For the first time in six years, Syriac Orthodox Christians were able to hold a prayer service in the church in the city of Deir Ezzor. Before the war, the church accounted for over 50% of the city’s entire Christian population. The church’s location made it a prime target throughout the war; the scars of conflict are still visible. For churches such as the Orthodox community, the space where one worships in is of great importance because space has a central role in the order of service. Despite the pain of seeing the destruction of their church, congregants are grateful that after so many years, they are finally able to pray together at Saint Mary’s.

02/05/2018 Syria (Premier) –  In Eastern Syria, the Syriac Orthodox church in the city of Deir Ezzor has held their first prayer service in six years.

Deir Ezzor, North-East of capital Damascus, experienced the rise of Islamic State in 2014.

3000 Christians are estimated to have lived in Deir Ezzor before the 2011 uprising but many fled.

People have gradually started returning as Syrian troops recapture the city, but it is slow progress as living conditions are desirable with destroyed buildings and temperamental access to electricity and water.

On Saturday the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Aphrem II, led a prayer service in the damaged church, St Mary.

According to AFP, the St Mary church still showed signs of the conflict it its congregation had experienced: “Stones, strips of wire, papers and remnants of rockets were strewn across the church floor, and bright sunlight streamed in from the blown-out windows.”

The Patriarch said: “It’s an indescribable feeling for us to pray in a nearly-destroyed church, which serves as a consolation for our hearts and a message of hope to the people of the city to come back and take part in building it anew.”

One man, Shadi Tuma, chose to remain in Deir Ezzor: “The hard times that Deir Ezzor went through pushed the families to leave, but there was a determination inside of me to stay in this city,” he told AFP.

“Deir Ezzor will always have coexistence. Christians will always have a presence here.”

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