Local Christians in Damascus have remained steadfast in the circumstances of war and have refused to leave their homeland.
The Christians of Bab Tuma, part of the Old City of the Syrian capital, Damascus, have been witness to the all-encompassing civil conflict in the country. Despite the precarious position of Christians in Syria, this has not dissuaded the Christians of this part of the country to leave their homes.
Despite the intermittent air raids and military clashes around Damascus, the Christians living in Bab Tuma continued to practise their rites and ceremonies in the 2,000-year-old Church of Ananias (or House of Saint Ananias). They pride themselves on the history of their community and their strong connection with their homeland and their Christian identity:
“I was here when a missile fell on us and destroyed the top floor. We renovated it and did not leave our house. This is our land and our home. I did not allow my children to travel away. Christianity came out from here to the rest of the world. St. Paul came through here and spread the word to the whole world”, remarked Sufi al-Ashqar Aboud, a local resident of Bab Tuma.
The recent civil conflict has not been representative of the relations between Christians and other religious groups in Damascus as they have lived for centuries in peaceful coexistence during the periods of political stability:
“All the churches of Damascus are always open to all Christians and Muslims”, asserted Father Anton Louksa, a priest at the House of Saint Ananias.
Moments of particular tension were experienced by the community during the military clashes between the Syrian regime’s forces and rebel militia in the Jobar region of eastern Damascus. Jobar neighbours the Old City to the east and it was home to rebel groups such as Faylaq al-Rahman, which have since been pushed out of the eastern areas of Damascus by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).