Jamila in Wonderland. Part 1

Do you have any Christians in Syria?

*Yes we do

-Really??

*Well.. yes .. over a million and a half

-Seriously?!!  I am shocked

*Why? They are Syrian citizens.. why shock?

-Do they lead a normal life?? Are they oppressed?? How do they survive??

*Their life is just.. normal.. like the rest of the other 90% .. nothing special

-Get out!!

That was a typical co
versation with someone who cannot resist asking this question once they figure that I am Syrian.

1467271041_phpW8z33vMany foreigners, especially Europeans and Americans, are surprised when they know
that in Syria Christians (%10 of the population) lead a normal life where they practie their rituals and have their churches and simply mix with the society around them, as if this thing was a miracle.
Every time I encounter a foreigner they cannot help showing their surprise over that fact, and to be honest, their surprise surprises me!

Very few bother to read or investigate about such simple facts before they hit us Syrians with this question.
Syria is actually one of the very few Arab countries where Christians have this liberty, which is considered in Syria a common sense and an inherent right not a privilege.

The recent1467270809_phpJhtLBi war on Syria has had its effect in increasing that state of wonder about Christians here, but it still sounds very strange when someone who is interested in such a domain and who is a holder of a Christian belief anywhere in the world does not know that Syria was the cradle of Christianity, and that towns like Maaoloa and Sednya where the haven of early Christians, that Church of John the Baptist lies in Aleppo, and the
church of St. Mary of the belt in Homs is one of the oldest churches on earth, and the list of Christian heritage is too long to be described in this article. Many of the Syrian churches still use Aramic (the language that Jesus Christ spoke) in their rituals, and in fact there are towns that still use that language in daily life.

During Christmas, New Year, Easter and other holy occasions,  it s less than normal to find streets all over Syria decorated celebrating those occasions although the country is of Muslims majority. We never came to think of isolating each other into closed communities where the space of one community is overtaken by another. Damascus, the capital, is the humblest example of a city where religions and sects mix in a way that most of the time you will find it very difficult to tell the person’s religions by his speech or looks; especially the new generations who have got over those complexes even more than the older generations. We never thought of our firneds at school or university according to their belief. I am not claiming that we are a utopian community where everything is perfect, I am just stating that despite the differences among us we were able throughout the ages to live harmoniously without belittling each other’s belief.

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We must note that the growing movements of radical Islam and its counter movement Islamophobia have outdone each other throughout the last two decades due to the continuous wars in the Middle East, and it is too hard to determine which is worse. And even long before that, western media in all its forms have in a regular way dedicated this image that ALL Arabs or inhabitants of the Middle East are all Muslims, radicals, and animals who are driven by their instincts and hatred. The use of the word “ALL” to make such sweeping judgments is too dangerous and must come to an end.

Syria has always been an exception, by the witnesses of all those who have been to there, it exemplifies a healthy state where religious communities live together without one taking over the space of the other. Christians are an essential component of the beautiful Syrian fabric, and without them this fabric would lose an element of strength and beauty. Raising awareness about the components of Syrian culture and society is our responsibility as Syrians, and we must work so hard against the religious extremism that is trying to take over and turn the Syrian society into a monotonous structure without any variations or colours in terms of ethnic and religious diversity.

Photos: Homs – Easter celebrations  2016

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