Rebels have taken over the Christian town of Maaloula in Syria. CNN reports on Sept. 8 that an Islamist group has taken control of the village. Early reports indicate some Christian residents are already leaving the area out of fear.
Maaloula is one of the few places left in the world that still has people who can speak Western Aramaic. It is considered to be the language of Jesus. The town has been captured by rebels, and Syria’s Christians are concerned about their future. Some reports from residents indicate the army has given up on the area and is not protecting them.
Christians have started to flee from Maaloula amid concerns the rebels will turn against them. There are several monasteries in the town, and residents are afraid they could be targeted or destroyed. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights states the Islamist group that has taken over the area is linked to al-Qaida.
There are conflicting stories emerging from the Syrian village. Residents mention the army has left and abandoned them while Syria’s news stations mention the army is making progress in ridding the area of rebels. A video posted on YouTube seems to side with the residents’ stories because rebels are seen celebrating in Maaloula and declaring their control of the town. There are also unconfirmed reports of rebels attacking Christians, destroying churches and trying to force some people to convert to Islam. More residents are expected to leave Maaloula as rebel forces increase in the area.