Syria’s Christian Valley: Rolling hills and verdant pastures shelter a Syrian Christian community – Part 3

By Sean Sprague

10SY120 - Christian farmer, 76-year-old Hana Sallom with his dog, Wadi al-Nasarah, "Valley of the Christians", near Homs, Syria.

10SY120 - Christian farmer, 76-year-old Hana Sallom with his dog, Wadi al-Nasarah, "Valley of the Christians", near Homs, Syria.

The Sallom family from the village of Kilitia exemplifies the region’s migration patterns. On a sunny morning, the 76–year–old patriarch takes a break from gardening to chat. As he has done for the last 60 years, Hana Sallom tills his modest 12 acres, on which he cultivates corn, beans, vegetables and fruit.

“I have five boys and two girls. They all live in Homs, except one boy who helps on the farm. My wife used to farm, too, but she is sick in bed,” he says. “There have been many changes around here. Lots of people have left to take jobs in the army or government. Others travel to Homs every day to work and come back in the evening.”

[caption id="attachment_1367" align="alignleft" width="199" caption="10SY119 - Christian farmer, 76-year-old Hana Sallom, at work cultivating vegetables, Wadi al-Nasarah, "Valley of the Christians", near…
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Syria’s Christian Valley: Rolling hills and verdant pastures shelter a Syrian Christian community – Part 2

by Sean Sprague

10SY384 - Maalula, the last remaining village in where Aramaic is still spoken. This is not part of Wadi al-Nasarah, being a 150 kilometers to the south, but is nevertheless interesting as the majority of the population are Christians, who enjoy the Convent and shrine of saint Tecla being in their midst, Syria.

10SY384 - Maalula, the last remaining village in where Aramaic is still spoken. This is not part of Wadi al-Nasarah, being a 150 kilometers to the south, but is nevertheless interesting as the majority of the population are Christians, who enjoy the Convent and shrine of saint Tecla being in their midst, Syria.

Today, Christians make up about a tenth of Syria’s 22 million people. Half of these two million souls belong to the…
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Syria’s Christian Valley: Rolling hills and verdant pastures shelter a Syrian Christian community – Part 1

by Sean Sprague

First published in CNEWA's One Magazine in May 2011, this story captures the way Syria was just months before the Arab Spring. At that timely moment when I was fortunate to visit, Syria was often described as "the Middle East's best kept secret". It was one of the safest of Arab countries to travel through despite its hard line regime. There was apparent harmony between the Sunni Muslims, Shi'ites, Alawites and Christians who lived peacefully side by side. It was said to be the best place in the Middle East for Christians. 

That has all dramatically changed and the old Syria will never return.  Initially peaceful demonstrations by students and their demands for democracy and easing of the state of emergency which had lasted decades under Bashir Assad's government were met by crushing force from the start. Over the following 18 months some 60,000 people have been slaughtered inside Syria while hundreds of thousands have fled as refugees to neighboring countries. Assad's government will be overthrown during the next months but what remains will be more conflict. The Free Syrian Army of opposition groups will fight the Jihadist Al Nasra brigades who want to intall Sharia law and an Islamic fundamentalist regime. Al Qaida is waiting on the fringes. A beautiful land and people are being torn apart. The Middle East's best kept secret has become a festering sore. This story captures how it was just a couple of yeas ago...

[caption id="attachment_1374" align="alignright" width="300" caption="10SY157 - Krak des Chevaliers Crusaders…
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