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Ma'loula is shaking off dust of terrorism

On April 20, 2014, President Bashar al-Assad underscored from Ma'loula town in Damascus countryside that no one can erase Syria's humanitarian history and civilization.

This statement reflects the determination of Syrian people and government to rebuild all historical sites damaged by the barbaric terrorists, who came to Syria from more than 100 countries with the support of some world and regional states.

Among these historic sites is Ma'loula town, which is the only place in the world where Aramaic- the Language spoken by Jesus Christ is still used as a living language.

This town was occupied by Takfiri terrorists from September 2013 till April 2014 . And its people were displaced and their homes were damaged during this period.

Professor Franklin lamb said in a report, obtained by the Syriatimes e-newspaper, under the title 'return to Ma'loula' that some terrorists around the town, who condemn alcohol on You Tube are among its most fervent partakers. "Many also appear to be addicted to courage enhancing drugs- including cocaine and, sometimes fighting 24 hours for two days straight or more and then collapsing on their battlefield spot."

The terrorists stripped the town of its antiques and then torched some places in it before they retreated to Lebanon or to the suburbs of Damascus while others made their way north to Aleppo and Idlib. 

"Christian clerics and scholars worry that Ma’loula’s priceless medieval icons and other works of art may have been destroyed or looted and will never be recovered. But some items are being founds and returned," according to Prof. Lamb.

65,000 archeological artifacts recovered

Professor Lamb clarified that around 65,000 archeological artifacts stolen by terrorists over the past four years have been recovered so far.  "This is roughly estimated to be around 10% of the total looted from Syria during this period with the two countries receiving the greatest number of stolen antiquities being Turkey and Lebanon."

Nuns to live-full time in Ma'loula by late August

On the other hand, he was advised that the group of 13 nuns abducted by Jabhat al Nusra terrorists and have been freed in a prisoner exchange are they now regularly visiting Ma’loula to help restore the Nunnery and St. Tecla Monastery as well as the orphanage.

"The nuns are to return and live full-time in Ma’loula by late August and will re-open the orphanage," the professor disclosed, adding that several of the 40 damaged Churches and affiliated religious sites are being restored in a good workmanship manner with respect to the installation of new electric line, water pipes, roof and window repairs and painting.

“Local and an occasional foreign volunteer are helping,” Prof. Lamb said.

950 persons returned

He pointed out that approximately 900 Christians and 50 Muslims from the pre-2011 population of 5000, of whom 80% were Christian and 20% Muslim, have returned to Ma’loula, their 90 AD ancient village that many consider the second most historic Christian village, after Jerusalem.

The residents, who have returned recently to Ma'loula are salvaging and repairing what they can, perhaps 10 % of the village that was looted, burned and damaged by terrorists.

The professor has been surveying and updating data as part of an archeological research project, on a modest selected number of the 152 archeological sites in Syria that have been severely damaged over the past four years.

Syria's Endangered Heritage

In early 2015, the US professor published a book entitled 'Syria's Endangered Heritage' including 5 chapters on cultural heritage destruction, damaged archeological sites and national and international legal protections for Syria's cultural heritage.

The book's author sees that it is the duty of every person of good will to offer assistance and support for efforts being undertaken in Syria and elsewhere to preserve and protect the global cultural heritage of humanity.

He quoted the UNESCO Director Irina Bokova as saying : "Damage to cultural heritage is a blow against the identity and history of the Syrian people- It is a blow against the universal heritage of humanity."

Basma Qaddour