Monday, April 21, 2014

Maaloula, Easter, Assad, and Aramaic

MAALOULA WATCH: Assad makes Easter visit to recaptured Christian town.
State television reports Syrian president goes to Maalula, taken by government forces in December
(AFP). See also here.

Well that was a good gesture, but more is needed: Why the language of Jesus is at risk (Kinda Jayouse, Globe and Mail).
But in the Syrian civil war, Maaloula is also strategically significant. The village is located near the main road that links Damascus to Homs, which is considered an essential supply route. That is why the government was eager to retake Maaloula from rebels – to cut off their supply routes and give the government more control of central Syria.

The exodus of Christians over the past year has worried experts, who fear that Aramaic speakers will integrate into their new communities and eventually the language will disappear. And although the village has been recaptured, many believe that the residents will not return because their homes have been destroyed, they are not wealthy enough to rebuild and the insecurity of the civil war continues.

“The village is badly damaged and security is very limited,” says one Maaloula resident who did not want to be named for safety reasons. “I do not think we will be able to go there to settle in a long time.”

“We are so happy [Maaloula] is free now, but the village is littered with land mines, many parts of it are destroyed and some homes have been torched,” says a former resident named Ward, who fled in late 2013 and has taken refuge in Damascus. “Most villagers are poor and I doubt they would have the means to rebuild their homes. And those who have the means are afraid that the general security situation is not stable yet or safe,” she added.
Meanwhile in the USA: Assyrians Who Fled Syria Prepare to Celebrate Easter in Chicago (Angie Leventis Lourgos, Chicago Tribune).

The situation in Maaloula is critical and its status as one of last remaining places where Aramaic is spoken as a daily language hangs in doubt. This is a chance for the Assad Government to demonstrate its goodwill and commitment to human rights and religious tolerance. Let's see Maaloula rebuilt, re-established for the original inhabitants, and made secure.

The world is watching.

Background on Maaloula (Ma'aloula, Malula) is here and links.