06/22/2022 Syria (International Christian Concern) – After over a decade of war, a major monastery in the Syrian desert has finally reopened. The monastery, Deir Mar Moussa Al-Habashi (St Moses the Ethiopian), once drew tens of thousands of visitors and served as a center for interfaith dialogue. Some 30,000 people traveled to the beautiful monastery in 2010, but the flow of visitors quickly dried up. Visitors have been deterred from journeying to the monastery since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The security situation in the surrounding areas grew increasingly threatening, and the monastery’s leader Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, who had served the monastery for nearly 30 years, disappeared. A spokesperson for the monastery told AFP, “IS most likely kidnapped [Dall’Oglio]. We do not know for sure whether he is alive or dead.”
While Father Dall’Oglio’s fate is uncertain, the monastery miraculously managed to stay intact through the Syrian civil war. The Islamic State burned down a monastery in a nearby village, imprisoned hundreds of Christians, and treated Deir Mar Moussa Al-Habashi to aggressive gunfire, but the isolated monastery still stands resolute. Since US-backed forces defeated Islamic State roughly three years ago, safety and security in the region of the monastery has significantly improved, prompting the monastery to once again open its doors to visitors this month. The monastery spokesperson said, “We yearn for people to return. We want to see them pray and meditate with us once more, so that they may find here a space for calm, silence and contemplation.”
Two monks, a nun, and two postulants currently reside in the monastery, living off the land and drinking from a nearby well. They faithfully maintain visitors’ rooms, a bird farm, and a library. Without the distraction of technology, they continue to await visitors. The monastery has survived persecution from the Islamic State, and now one of the monks, who has dedicated his life to worship and serving visitors, invites Christians to return. He said, “This is a space to breathe, away from the noise and agitation.”
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