SYRIA: Christian families return to homes rebuilt after the uprising

A Christian family whose home was destroyed.
A Christian family whose home was destroyed.

Fifteen Syrian Christian families are set to resume their lives in a Damascus suburb ravaged by the civil war, thanks to reconstruction work supported by a Catholic charity.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has helped rebuild the family homes in Darayya, south-west Syria – notable for its historic Christian presence – enabling parishioners to return to the city devastated by clashes between the government and insurgent groups.

St Paul’s Melkite Greek Catholic Church has been rebuilt, but most of the faithful have not yet arrived back, according to former Darayya parish priest Father Georges Jbeil, financial manager at the Melkite Archdiocese of Damascus.

Father Jbeil told ACN: “Not many [parishioners] have returned yet, so there are still no services in the church.”

Darayya became the centre of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s government in 2012, resulting in heavy fighting and prompting the majority of its 300,000 inhabitants to flee.

By the time the government negotiated a ceasefire with rebel groups in 2016, 90 percent of the city had been destroyed, with many churches in the area vandalised and icons stolen.

Many of the 150 Christian families who used to live in the suburb moved to nearby towns or emigrated to other countries.

Some Christian traditions hold that Saint Paul the Apostle’s conversion took place near Darayya on his way to Damascus, highlighting the importance of preserving a Christian presence in the region.

Marco Mencaglia, director of projects at ACN said that most Christian homes were razed to the ground during the war.

He explained: “Those whose homes have not been completely destroyed are longing to return to Darayya.

“However, most of them lack the means to rebuild or renovate them.”

Father Jbeil said: “We are so grateful to ACN for the help.

“Thanks to your love, 15 families will be able to return to their homes soon and fill the parish with life again.”

He concluded: “The light of faith and the witness of the Gospel can shine again.”


With thanks to Sina Hartert