The ancient Christian town of Maaloula near Damascus celebrated Christmas with a special service held at the St Elias church on Tuesday, as peaceful life returns to the area and the town restores its role as an important religious settlement.
Surrounded by mountains, Maaloula is one of the few places in the world where Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, is spoken by the locals.
It has important religious building such as two ancient Christian monasteries – Mar Sarkis and Mar Thecla, which, however, were badly damaged by militants from several groups including the al-Nusra Front and Jaysh al-Islam in 2013.
“After terrorism had assaulted this monastery and caused a lot of destruction, sabotaging, looting, and setting fires, we restored the monastery, and we are receiving believers who want to get the blessings of this place, as well as hold prayers and religious rituals,” Archimandrite Matta Rizq of the Mar Thecla monastery said.
Following several months of intense fighting, the town was eventually liberated by the Syrian Arab Army in April 2014.
Video credit: Ruptly