Just weeks after the Syrian army advanced into rebel-occupied East Aleppo to liberate and reunify it with West Aleppo are residents gathering in celebration of their city and the holy Christian holiday of Christmas. After 4 years of battle, there is something great to be thankful for.
With major combat operations complete and the remaining terrorists bussed out as of December 22, this will be the first Christmas in 4 years without violence and the many hardships associated with it in the city of 1.2 million.
Photos and videos from Aleppo have revealed a people overwhelmed with joy, relieved that the violence that has been associated with their city is coming to a close.
Aleppo is home to some of the most ancient Christian populations in the world and as a city holds the largest number of Christians in Syria, a nation where 10% of the population practices the faith. From the Oriental Orthodoxy branch which derives Syriac Orthodoxy and Armenian Apostolic Orthodoxy to Eastern Orthodoxy, which includes the Assyrian Church of the East and the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Eastern Catholic, Roman Catholic, even Protestantism, all have had a continuous home in Aleppo and Greater Syria since men first called themselves Christian.
In Antioch (now Antakya, Turkey), where “men first called themselves Christians” (Acts 11:26) and Edessa (now Şanlıurfa, Turkey), an early center of Syriac Christianity, a deep relationship developed with Aleppo during the rise and fall of Christianity in the Middle East.
In more recent history, Aleppo in the 20th century became a refuge for the Christian populations; Assyrian, Syriac, Armenian, and Greeks who were forced out of their ancestral homeland on the Anatolian peninsula by the Ottoman Turks in the early decades of the century. The last Christians to live in Edessa (South-east Turkey) were forcibly relocated in 1922-3 and found a home in the Assyrian Quarter of Aleppo, which suffered bombardment by Islamist rebels during the occupation of Eastern neighborhoods in Aleppo between 2012-2016. Christians were specifically targetted by Islamist rebels, who planned on cleansing the city of its Christian inhabitants.
Christianity in the Middle East has suffered a major blow with the destabilization of Iraq and Syria and the subsequent rise of the most extremist versions of political Islam to the center of the regional conflicts. Millions of Christians have been both internally displaced and been forced to leave for refuge abroad as a result of violence against their communities.
a population of Christians will continue to survive in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon under the threat of extremism. The government of the Iraqi and Lebanese state and President Bashar al-Assad of Syria have worked to preserve Christianity in their respective nations, but weak states exhausted by war and perverted by Islamist ideology are an easy target for extremist forces backed by billions in military support and shielded politically by Western governments.