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    Church in Syria Holds First Service after Six Years

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    Christians said prayers for the first time in six years inside a broken down church in eastern Syria, reports online news website The Arab.

    St. Mary’s Church in the city of Deir az-Zour may have been damaged, but Christians still gathered inside the war-torn building on February 3, 2018 to attend their first prayer service.

    “Prayer for me is like a new life,” said Sally Qasar. “It gave me the determination to come back to Deir az-Zour and put up with the poor provision of services, and participate in rebuilding it.”

    The Islamic State left Deir az-Zour in ruins after it took control over the city in 2012. About 3,000 Christians in the city fled their homes to find safety. Government troops fought with the militants and recaptured Deir az-Zour in 2017. Following the departure of ISIS, many residents started returning to their native land.

    Around two dozen Christians came to church and said their prayers. The Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Aphrem II, led the prayer service in St. Mary’s. Some Muslim clerics also attended the Saturday’s service.

    “Prayer for me is like a new life,” said Sally Qasar. “It gave me the determination to come back to Deir az-Zour and put up with the poor provision of services, and participate in rebuilding it.”

    St. Mary’s Church is still showing signs of the bloody battles between government forces and the rebels. Broken windows, rocks, bullet holes, and remnants of rockets scattered on the church floor. Despite the dreary condition of the church, the Christians were grateful to celebrate the holy mass, reports Premier.

    “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,” the Patriarch shared.

    Another worshipper, Shadi Tuma, said he decided to remain in Deir az-Zour even though the war forced many of his neighbors to leave the city. “Deir az-Zour will always have coexistence. Christians will always have a presence here.”

    Sources:
    The New Arab
    Premier

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