Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A new statue of the Virgin Mary was inaugurated two days ago on the mountain overlooking Maaloula, an ancient Christian town, to replace the one destroyed by anti-Assad rebels in 2013.
The installation of the statue was celebrated by many Christian families who are present there, as well as religious leaders, including national flags and a large portrait of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Maaloula, 55 km north of Damascus, with about 4,000 inhabitants and a large Christian majority, is well-known because there are monasteries and churches dating back to the first centuries of Christianity and is a part of the country where people still speak Aramaic, the language used in the time of Jesus Christ.
In late 2013, the anti-Assad rebels, jihadists of the Nousra Front, occupied the town, destroying churches, icons and killing some Christians. At the end of the year, the rebels also kidnapped some nuns and girls guests of the convent. They freed the group after months in exchange for dozens of prisoners in Syrian jails. In April 2014, the Syrian army recaptured the city. In the some archaeological jewels were destroyed such as the monastery of Mar Sarkis, which includes the churches of St. Sergius and Bacchus.
The inauguratiuon of the statue of the Virgin aims to signal a return to normal in Maaloula.
The Christians of Syria constitute 10% of the population, an estimated 22 million people. Because of the war that has lasted more than four years, at least 30% of Christians has taken refuge in neighboring countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey) or are internally displaced.