On Christmas Eve, news coverage flashed for a moment on Maaloula, Syria, a small town tucked into limestone cliffs 26 miles from Damascus. Orthodox Christians live there and speak neo-Aramaic, a modern form of the language Jesus spoke.
As one of the few places in the world where Aramaic is still spoken, Maaloula is a tourist site, especially around Christmas.
On September 8-9, 2013, Maaloula was attacked by rebel forces trying to overthrow Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. That occurred one month after Assad's forces used poisonous gas on another nearby village, killing some 1,400 men, women, and children.
The U.S. says Assad's forces fired rockets loaded with the nerve agent sarin on rebel-held areas near the capital before dawn on Aug. 21, 2013, killing at least 1,429 people. Other estimates put the death toll from the attack at more than 500.
Why is there such a difference between the two death estimates? Maaloula and nearby towns are also the site of a major propaganda battle. The Assad regime in Damascus controls and protects Maaloula, and the people thus favor his government.
Russian propaganda sites such as Ruptly (RT or Russia Today) and Mark Taliano praise Assad as a "secular government" and use Maaloula as an example of him supporting a partly non-Muslim town. SANA, the Syrian government news agency, is controlled by Assad. The Russian and Syrian news sites praise Assad and hate both the US and the Al-Nusra rebel front, because it includes Al Qaeda forces.
Poor Syria is caught in a major struggle for territory between the two main branches of Islam. Saudi Arabia and Syria are Sunni Muslims, while Iran and Al Qaeda are Shiite.
The American government under President Obama supported those trying to overthrow Assad because of his murderous attacks on his own people, including poisonous gas attacks.
Under Trump, however, the US supports Assad and overlooks his massacre of rebel Syrians.
What can Christians and Jews and Muslims from the US to do help? Pray for these people, stay informed, and work to end the murderous regime of Assad.
Another report on Syrian Christians: https://www.thewhig.com/2013/12/19/syrian-christians-face-danger-at-christmas/wcm/1a7853ae-4b87-2420-b8c5-b05a57fe93e4