A prayer service was held in a devastated church in Syria’s Deir Ezzor city. This was first prayer service in almost six years, as the church building was ravaged by the terror group Islamic State’s militants. This prayer was held in Church of St. Mary, which was attended by a group of people.
The congregants were holding white candles as they walked through ravaged archways, less than 12 people worshiped and offered prayers in the church building where remnants of rockets, rubble and wires could very easily be spotted on the floor.
Muslim clerics also witnessed the prayer as the congregants worshiped and prayed. The prayer was solemnized by Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Aphrem II. A small table adorned with white cloth was used as pulpit by the Patriarch as the altar was badly damaged.
“It’s an indescribable feeling for us to pray in a nearly-destroyed church, which serves as a consolation for our hearts and a message of hope to the people of the city to come back and take part in building it anew,” Patriarch of Antioch said.
A local bishop, Maurice Amseeh urged the Christians to return to their homes. “The important thing now is for life to come back, for Deir Ezzor’s residents and Christians to come back to it,” he told worshipers.
Deir Ezzor was once home to about 3,000 Christians before the insurgency broke out in 2011. Fierce violence and fighting has gripped the city ever since insurgents captured part of Deir Ezzor back in 2012. Situation deteriorated when the ultra-terror group Islamic State made its appearance in 2014. The city fell into the hands of Syria’s troops in November 2017, which led to gradual return of the residents.
31 year old, local Christian Shadi Tuma, who decided not to run away from his city says: “The hard times that Deir Ezzor went through pushed the families to leave, but there was a determination inside of me to stay in this city,” he told international news agency adding, “Deir Ezzor will always have coexistence. Christians will always have a presence here.”
Another Christian, Sally Qassar 40, explained that this prayer service brought peace to her heart. “Prayer for me is like a new life,” she said. “It gave me the determination to come back to Deir Ezzor and put up with the poor provision of services, and participate in rebuilding it.”