Syrian Christian refugees seek return to ancient town after government recapture

( Syrian Christian refugees from the ancient town of Maaloula are seeking to return to their home after it was recaptured by Syrian government forces this week.

The Syrian Christian village of Maaloula. Credit: Bernard Gagnon via Wikimedia Commons.

“I would love to go back and celebrate Easter there, but it’s still a bit early,” said Fadi Mayal, a former Maaloula resident who currently lives in Damascus’s Christian quarter, Lebanon’s Daily Star reported.

“There are still sleeper cells in Maaloula,” Mayal said, referring to jihadist groups in the area.

Maaloula, located 56 kilometers from Damascus, is an ancient Christian town where many of the residents still speak Aramaic, the same language spoken by Jesus.

Last September, jihadists invaded the small village of about 5,000, attacking Christian homes and churches and threatening them with beheadings. As a result, all of the residents fled to Damascus and elsewhere.

But after an extensive campaign, the Syrian army said it has restored “security and stability” to Maaloula and that residents could return.

Reports, however, indicate that the town suffered extensive damage, with many homes and churches destroyed.

“I’m saddened by the destruction of the churches,” said Antoinette Nasrallah, another former Maaloula resident, the Daily Star reported.

“We want to spend next summer there,” she said. “Celebrating the Feast of the Cross there on September 14, as we do every year, has become a dream.”

Posted on April 17, 2014 .