BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:30 A.M.) – Locals have begun reconstructing the historic St. George Orthodox Church in the rural Damascus town of Ma’aloula on Sunday, local activists reported.
According to these activists, construction workers have entered the town abd begun restoring church after it was robbed and burned down by the jihadist rebels of Jabhat Al-Nusra and their allies from the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
“Parishioners and Syrian Christian communities raised the money for the restoration,” Fadi Shahim, the leader of the restoration workers team, told Tass News Agency. “Unfortunately, international organizations didn’t give us any assistance so far.”
“We’ve just gotten down to work and haven’t done much yet but we’ve already repaired the staircase leading to the bell-tower,” he said. “I think full restoration will take about a year.”
Shahim indicated that the people restoring the historic church now have been members of its parish in the past and that is why revival of the shrine is more than just work for them.
“When we saw what the militants had done to the church, we had our hearts broken,” he said. “We went to this church from our green years and it was a second home for us.”
He also said the terrorists had looted everything they could take before leaving the town. “They grabbed an ancient bell and desecrated the faces of saints on the icons by scratching them out.”
While the church could be restored on the whole, some of the losses were irreparable, Shahim said. “The biggest loss is the ancient icon of St George that overlooked the entrance. The terrorists took it away and nothing is known about its fate,” he said.
Ma’aloula was captured by the jihadist rebels in 2014 and then liberated by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Hezbollah during their Winter offensive in the Qalamoun Mountains.