During the month of October and in the middle of Syria's tumultuous civil war, a giant 40-foot statue of Jesus Christ was erected over a three-day period. The bronze image stands on a base that projects the immense statue, its arms outstretched in a welcoming gesture, 105 feet above the surface of Cherubim mountain. How it got there is being labeled nothing short of a miracle.
The Associated Press reported (via Yahoo News) Nov. 2 that an apparent truce between three warring factions in the Syrian civil conflict allowed the giant bronze statue of the Christian messiah, Jesus Christ, to be mounted onto its base. It overlooks the Christian town of Sednaya, where fighting between President Bashar Asad's government forces, rebels, and local militias was ongoing. Since the sectarian groups do not formally recognize each other, the truce was unofficial -- yet, it occurred.
And on Oct. 14, the statue of Jesus Christ was erected without incident, giving no details as to how the cease-fire was achieved.
"It was a miracle," project organizer Samir al-Ghadban said. "Nobody who participated in this expected this to succeed."
The project, which is called "I Have Come To Save The World," took eight years to reach completion. It met with funding problems, logistics snags, and the deaths of organizers and donors, including the project's last primary benefactor, Russian businessman Yuri Gavrilov, who died in 2012 of heart failure while the statue was being transported to Lebanon.
But al-Ghadban never gave up. He was prompted, he said, to build the statue in 2005 in an effort to inspire Syria's Christians. He took inspiration for the statue itself from the giant Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro, Argentina.
Still, after all the problems the project faced, the statue was completed in 2012. However, Syria was embroiled in a civil war that had been going on for a year. But al-Ghadban and his foundation made plans and started shipping the statue anyway.
At one point, al-Ghadban and his principal backer, Gavrilov, considered abandoning the project. So they consulted Syria's Greek Orthodox Patriarch John Yaziji, who al-Ghadban quoted as saying, "Jesus would have done it."
On Oct. 14, cranes eased the last piece of the giant statue into place.
Although it was erected in relatively peaceful conditions, the future safety of the giant Jesus Christ statue is uncertain. Most mainstream Muslims do not have problems with Christians or their beliefs, for they are fellow "People of the Book," or followers of the original five books of the Bible and the God of Abraham, as are Muslims. As such, "people of the book," Jews and Christians alike, are protected under Islamic sharia law and their beliefs given autonomy. However, fundamentalist Islamic sects and organizations like al Qaeda find Christians antithetical to their worldview and in need of conversion. Intolerance, religious assimilation or eradication have become their mission. And to some of the more extreme, a statue might be interpreted as a graven image, forbidden by Mosaic law (part of the first commandment of ten given to Moses, as told in the Book of Exodus).
At the same time, war has a way of collecting non-human casualties as well. Simply put, things get destroyed -- often as unintended collateral damage -- during wartime...
But, for now at least, the giant bronze Jesus Christ statue stands atop a mountain in Syria, unblemished and unharmed. It is a true testament that peace can be found in the midst of chaos -- a fitting tribute to the man Christians often refer to as the "Prince of Peace."