January 14, 2014

Pillager of Monasteries in Maaloula Found Dead

On December 26, 2013 vocative.com published the article The Religious Spoils of War, which featured an interview with Syrian rebel Abu Jafar, leader of the "Battalion of the Martyr Abu Taan", which is an offshoot of "Free Kalamoon". Abu Jafar was revealed to be the one responsible with pillaging the Monasteries of Saint Thekla and Saint Sergius in Maaloula which he sold in Lebanon to support the war effort, and kidnapping the nuns of the Monastery of Saint Thekla. In the interview he claimed good intentions and that what he was doing he did for the war effort.

According to maaloula.org, reported just after midnight on January 14, on Sunday 12 January 2014 Abu Jafar was found mysteriously murdered. Local news says that all the members of his family were found dead as well. It is suspected there was some sort of disagreement between him and his "comrads".

With news of his death, other news has come to light. The Lebanese Calam reported on January 13 that "jihadists plundered the grave of Saint Thekla". According to Father Makarios Gulwma, secretary of the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East for the Catholic Melkites told RIA Novosti: "The fighters of Al Nousra and Free Sham removed the bells of the churches of historic Maaloula, torched the iconostasis of the Monastery as well and that of the Monastery of Saint Sergius, and they plundered the grave of St. Thekla after digging it. They burned all the crosses and destroyed them." The same witness complains they stole the bronze statue of the enthroned Jesus adorning the Monastery erected by the Orthodox Foundation of Saint Paul of Syria. The statue was sculpted by the famous Russian sculptor Alexandre Rukavhanikov. Fr. Makarios conveyed the indignation of this martyric town: "They stole our most important symbols, even the bells that call us to prayer. Men of Al Nousra burned our homes. They want to extinguish the last vestige of Christianity and void out her existence."