Three Christian Churches Reopen in Syrian Village

Three Christian churches, including the Orthodox Church of St. George the Victorious, have reopened in the village of Kharaba in the as-Suwayda District of the as-Suwayda Governorate in southeastern Syria for the first time since the war began, as Christian families are returning to their native village.

A Catholic and a Protestant church have also reopened.

“The church opened in the mid-80s. Services continued in this church until 2013. Then it was closed because it became unsafe… The windows and doors were repaired here last week; everything was restored to its Divine appearance. You could say we’re present at the opening now,” Basel al-Khoury, a choir member at St. George’s, told journalists, reports RIA-Novosti.

During the war, the majority of Kharaba’s residents fled to other cities, while refugees from neighboring villages occupied church premises in the village. Now the residents are returning home. According to al-Khoury, about 140 families are currently attending the Orthodox church, though there were more than 300 families before the war.

“We are waiting and hoping that everyone else will return, because it’s safe here now. Thank you to the Russian people and everyone who helped us return to a peaceful life,” al-Khoury added.

St. George is widely venerated throughout all of Syria, noted parish rector Fr. Timoun Ayub. “But now it can also be called the Church of the Resurrection, the restoration of our hopes for the future, the restoration of our village,” he added.

CSW reported on May 13 that about 100 Christian families had returned to Kharaba. The village was home to about 1,2000 Christians before it was taken by rebels in 2014. The Christians fled and Muslims took over their homes. A Russian-sponsored ceasefire was achieved in 2018, and after months of negotiations and church and home restorations, Christians were able to return on May 3. A welcoming ceremony was held with representatives from both the Christian and Muslim communities.

The three churches have been adapted to hold services, though they are still undergoing restoration. There are still bullet marks on the façades and some of the walls have collapsed.

“I would like to say that we must love one another, especially we residents of this village. When love reigns, all problems can be resolved, and we can even forget what has happened. We have to forget our grievances to move on,” said local Catholic priest Fr. Nasim Graeb.