“It’s hard to believe that what used to be one of the most significant shrines of the Christian community all over the world is a battlefield now,” Finoshina reported from the village on Saturday, her voice occasionally drowned out by the sound of gunfire.
Maaloula – a mountain village of 2,000 residents, 60km northeast of Damascus - is a major pilgrimage destination for Christians from around the world.
It’s home to some of the most ancient Orthodox Christian relics and is also one of the very few places in the world where people still speak Aramaic, a biblical-era language that Jesus is believed to have spoken.
Apart from being an ancient sanctuary on a UNESCO list of proposed World Heritage sites, Maaloula is also strategically important, situated on a highway between Damascus and Homs. The rebels have already established bases in the west and south of the capital. The village in the northeast would significantly increase rebel pressure on Damascus.
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