Chris­tians in Aleppo pre­pare war-rav­aged church for Christ­mas

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

ALEPPO, Syria:

Inside Aleppo’s crum­bling Saint Elias Cathe­dral, Nehme Badawi and his brother Bashir rum­mage through the snow-covered rub­ble for wood and scrap metal to make a crude Na­tiv­ity scene for Christ­mas. The roof of the famed church in Aleppo’s Old City had col­lapsed years ago un­der a salvo of rocket fire, and bright white flakes floated down and rested on the de­struc­tion inside.

“We’re us­ing what­ever de­bris we can find to sym­bol­ise the tri­umph of life over death,” says 53-year-old Nehme, as he gath­ered bro­ken tree branches to dec­o­rate the scene.

Af­ter more than four years of fierce fight­ing, the guns have fallen silent in Syria’s sec­ond city just a few days be­fore Christ­mas. The army an­nounced on Thurs­day that it had fully re­cap­tured Aleppo, putting an end to the vi­o­lence that trans­formed the city from a hub of cul­ture and his­tory into a world­wide sym­bol of de­struc­tion.

Aleppo’s small Catholic mi­nor­ity has wasted no time in try­ing to bring life back to the ru­ins of Saint Elias, pre­par­ing the church for its first Christ­mas mass in five years.

Along with his brother and a group of boy scouts, Bashir is sur­rounded by over­turned church pews, pieces of cor­ru­gated metal and scraps of wood strewn across the floor. “The emo­tional im­pact is much big­ger and deeper than the ma­te­rial loss,” he says. — AFP

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