Christmas is coming. For many especially in the West it is a time to gather with family and friends. To exchange gifts. To eat and drink more than we probably should. For Christians, Christmas is of course the time to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus Christ, although the cultural tsunami of the holidays obscures this historical event for too many.
While countless who celebrate Christmas go about their business searching to find the latest online sale or scrambling to find a parking spot to finish those seemingly never-ending last minute errands, those in the very region where Christ was born struggle to survive.
Christian communities full of history in Syria have been uprooted and in many cases destroyed. Venerable male and female monastics, together with hierarchs, martyrs, and confessors from Syria (e.g., Ephraim the Syrian; Isaac Bishop of Ninevah; Holy Martyr Aquilina) fill the registry of Saints of the Orthodox Church. The western world has witnessed — and often nothing more — the absolute devastation and unspeakable tragedies that have befallen Aleppo, a city outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently described as a “synonym for hell.”
Earlier this month, 25 people were killed in a bombing at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo. Egypt is another historically important Christian country whose lands have cultivated revered saints such as Anthony the Great and Mary of Egypt.