The photographs show a rubble-filled church, ripped open by rockets during the long Syrian civil war; but the scenes of Christmas worship inside St Elias Maronite Cathedral offer testimony to the endurance of hope.
The fall of rebel-held east Aleppo was the biggest victory of Syria’s nearly six-year-old civil war for supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, and many in pro-government parts of the city have been jubilant.
However, the rebel defeat has also brought severe hardship on civilians who fled from insurgent-held areas, thousands of whom have been forced to camp in wilderness under the snow. Aid groups say many are in peril and children have died from exposure to severe winter weather.
In the war ravaged St. Elias Cathedral located on what was long the frontline in Aleppo’s historic Old City, priests prayed for peace at the first Christmas Eve Mass for five years, attended by dozens of worshippers, including some Russian officers.
“The festive atmosphere is great. It’s a new birth for Jesus Christ and a new birth for the city of Aleppo,” said George Bakhash, a Christian community leader. …
Although some Christians stayed on the sidelines of the civil war, many saw the rise of Islamic State and other Sunni Muslim insurgent groups as a threat to the very existence of their communities, some as old as the bible. The Christian population of Aleppo has shrunk since the start of the conflict to around 50,000 from 250,000 according to Bakhash.
The Catholic News Agency tweeted a video of Christmas celebrations coming together in the Old City of Aleppo.
— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) December 26, 2016
Featured image: AFP/Getty Images via the Daily Mail