Tuesday, January 1

The Spirit of Christmas is Alive and Well in Syria.

Even in the Small Towns

From Arab News, December 25, 2018
... Both Christians and Muslims look forward to celebrating the occasion, and many Muslim families decorated trees in their homes, prompting jokes on social media about Christians taking photos next to Muslims’ Christmas trees.
“Our Muslim neighbors set up better decorations than we did,” said Meray, a Christian school teacher who lives in Al-Muhajirin district in Damascus. ...
From Vanessa Beeley (reporting from Syria for RT)
Christmas celebrations have literally radiated out across Syria and western media was curiously silent in the face of such displays of unity and solidarity among Syria's diverse peoples.

Syrians saw off the year 2018 under a glittering canopy of festive lights and elaborate decorations adorn the streets of many cities, towns and villages throughout much of the country.

Izraa, a town in the southern province of Daraa, was liberated from US Coalition client terrorism in July 2018 after the surrender of the armed groups. Residents celebrated Christmas for the first time in seven years and they celebrated in style.

In Damascus, people poured onto the streets of the Old City without fear of a rain of mortars from extremist groups in Eastern Ghouta, an area fully cleansed of armed groups, by the Syrian Arab Army and allies in April 2018. I walked among the thousands of civilians who gathered around the towering Christmas trees and jostled each other to take selfies next to the myriad of Christmas displays that lined the streets.

In 2018 this was not only a “Christian” festival, this was a rebirth of the Syrian celebration of life and a symbol of victory over international terrorism - a vindication of all that Syria has represented and defended for seven long and arduous years spent battling western-backed ideological extremism that would tear apart the secular fabric of Syrian society and reduce it to sectarian hatred and ensure the extinction of minority communities in a country that has embraced diversity for centuries.

During his Christmas Eve sermon in 1967, Martin Luther King said “We must either learn to live together as brothers or we are going to perish together as fools”.
While NATO-aligned media in the West has maintained a sectarian narrative with regards to the Syrian conflict and has dehumanised the Syrian people who have stood by their Government, their President, their Army and their allies - Syria has resolutely drawn together the threads of its cultural tapestry in defiance of such simplistic narratives and has confounded its enemies who underestimated the power of a people who have withstood centuries of invasion and instability.

Dr Hadi Yazjii is a Syrian American physician who spent the first two decades of his life in Syria before moving to the US. He told me:

“Given the fact that modern-day Syria and ancient Syria (including Damascus and Antioch) has been the actual place that is responsible for spreading Christianity to Europe, Syrians feel a special sense of universality, responsibility and pride in their heritage which transcends the pure religious celebration. Christmas reflects the sacred secular status of Syria and the Levant”.

This fierce belief in a secular heritage has been the life-force of the Syrian resistance against [Western] military adventurism and Gulf State, Turkish and Israeli sponsorship of extremism in the region.
The ancient Christian town of Maaloula was invaded by Nusra Front and subsidiaries in September 2013. During the attack, three unarmed men from Maaloula were executed in cold blood, one after the other, as each one refused to convert to Islam. This stubborn resistance against ideological tyranny and persecution is what has enabled Syria to endure the hardship and suffering foisted upon them by the West and to emerge victorious despite the bloodshed and devastation that has affected every family and community.

After Damascus, I traveled to the Syrian Christian towns of Al Skeilbiyyeh and Mhardeh to the north of Hama province, bordering territory controlled by Nusra Front (rebranded as Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham or HTS) who dominate the assorted extremist armed groups that occupy Idlib. Both towns have received thousands of mortars from the terrorist entities encamped on their borders, less than 500 meters away from the towns at certain points.

In Al Skeilbiyyeh, volunteers worked for fifty days on the production of a lavish and gloriously flamboyant Christmas carnival that spilled colour and joy onto streets that have been scarred by rockets and mortars for the last seven years. I spoke to the organisers who told me that they feel a deepening sense of security in recent months. For them, and all residents I spoke to, 2018 signified a shift away the uncertainty of previous years towards greater stability.
This important shift was entirely attributed to the heroism of the volunteer Syrian National Defence forces and their commander, Nabel Alabdalla, who have valiantly defended the town and its people alongside the Syrian Arab Army and allies.

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