Breaking News: Islamists Re-enter Maaloula

Maaloula, Syria: view of the St. Thecla monastery from the top of the rock. In the cove above the monastery there is a shrine of St. Thecla. This file is licensed to Wikimedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Earlier today The Daily Star (a Lebanese paper) was one of the first English sources to break the news. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights copied and pasted their work (changing only the spelling of the village) and the story is now beginning to get wider media exposure at AP, NPR, and elsewhere. The derivative stories focus more on the greater context of the battle to control the Qalamoun Mountains, which are strategic to supply lines for both sides.

Sadly, this means that initial reports of a great tragedy are passing in silence. Multiple Arabic Facebook pages are reporting that the Islamists have seized control of St. Thekla’s Monastery and have kidnapped the nuns and the soldiers who were guarding them. Reports claiming to come from foot soldiers stationed in Maaloula indicate that the opposition forces are destroying the convent. All indications are that the girls from the Monastery orphanage and the younger nuns under 60 were relocated to a safer location before the latest outbreak of violence. The Mother Superior and the older nuns chose to stay and there whereabouts not certain. Those whom I have been able to contact in Syria fear the worst.

I point out in full candor that my information is fragmentary and hearsay. That is the nature of information from an active war zone. That said, I would rather express  watchful – and perhaps on some points, overly hasty – concern than wait for a media cycle dominated by football and consumerism to turn its attention to the fate a few pious elderly women who stood their ground against al-Qaeda in one of Christianity’s oldest and most venerable monasteries.

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