Syrian Christians bring message of hope with first prayer service in ravaged church in years

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Lorraine Caballero
A group of Christians in Syria recently gathered at a ravaged church in the city of Deir Ezzor for their first prayer service in almost six years to convey a message of hope to their co-believers.
(REUTERS / Khalil Ashawi / File Photo)A man walks along a deserted street filled with debris in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria. February 14, 2014.

On Saturday, Feb. 3, Muslim clerics joined less than two dozen Christians for a prayer gathering at the church of St. Mary in the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor. The believers have not been able to hold such a service since rebels overran the city in 2012, and the situation worsened when the Islamic State gained power in 2014, the AFP detailed.

However, residents slowly started returning to Deir Ezzor only after Syrian troops were able to retake the whole city from ISIS in November.

Ignatius Aphrem II, the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, presided over the service on Saturday. Amidst the severely damaged altar, he said the service brings them hope and invites other people to participate in rebuilding their ravaged city.

“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,” said Patriarch Aphrem II.

Local bishop Maurice Amseeh also called on his fellow believers to return to Deir Ezzor. Addressing the small congregation on Saturday, he underscored the importance of bringing life back to their city.

Last month, the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Ali Ghanem, conveyed the government’s prime interest is restoring Deir Ezzor to normality. He also revealed that there were 27 major projects for the city that are being undertaken, the MEHR News Agency relayed.

In addition, Health Minister Dr. Nizar Yazigi said the budget for rehabilitating their health establishments in Deir Ezzor had already been allocated. He said the government was currently working on restoring all the health institutions in the province.