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Syrian statue of Jesus attacked by Islamist rebels

Jesus Statue

Saidneya, Syria

An enormous bronze statue of Jesus – attacked by Islamist rebels

In October of 2013, after over two years of brutal war in Syria at the hands of Islamist “rebels” who are trying to enforce Islamic Law on the Syrian people, an enormous bronze statue of Jesus was placed on Mount Saidneya. The giant statue can be seen from Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. Saidneya was chosen for the statue because it overlooks the route Christian pilgrims took from Constantinople to Jerusalem during ancient times.

The village and monastery at Saidneya have been attacked by Islamist rebels four times since the statue was put up in 2013. But so far, the Syrian Army and Syrian National Defense Forces have been able to fight off attacks and protect Saidneya’s monastery, church complex, and the giant statue of Jesus.

In February of 2014, the Syrian Army reported: “The Syrian Army and National Defense Forces are fighting desperately because this war is against foreign Islamists … we will defend our homeland, territory and dignity … It is either the monastery or death. The icons here serve as an honor for us.

During recent attacks, the monastery was struck by mortar shells and the Islamist rebels infiltrated on a daily basis. The presence of civilians has made it difficult to conduct a comprehensive military operation due to the Islamists using women and children as human shields. But the Syrian Forces have been launching return strikes and have so far been able to defend Saidneya, its rich heritage, and its people.

After one recent intense bout of fighting, the Syrian Army discovered ID and passports on the dead Islamist “rebels” that showed that the “rebels” were from France, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan. This is not a war about democracy—Syrians are happy with their system of religious equalities and diversity of political parties. This is a foreign Islamist invasion. And the US has been backing the foreign Islamist invaders.

The word Saidneya has its roots in the Aramaic language–a language which early Christians used to spread the gospel–and of which many Syrian Christians throughout Syria continue to speak to this day—it is the language of Jesus. Saidneya means “Our Lady”, referring to the Virgin Mary.

Villagers in the nearby village of Maaloula, and a few smaller villages nearby, also speak Aramaic. Syria’s Christians are an ancient culture who have resided peacefully and undisturbed for centuries, that is until 2011, when foreign Islamists began invading Syria with intentions of an Islamist takeover.

Saidneya Mountain is filled with caves, and early Christians used these caves to escape from Roman persecution. Today the caves can be seen as one climbs to the top of the monastery. The Monastery at Saidneya dates to the 3rd century. The first structures for worship were built in 529.

The Convent of Our Lady of Saidneya was built by Justinian, the Byzantine emperor, in 547 AD. Justinian had two visions of Mary, one of which directed him as to where to build the church, and one regarding its design. Syrian Christians believe that the second advent of Christ will happen on the mountain on the pilgrimage route. Pilgrims from all over the world come to Saidneya for healing and renewal of faith.

The giant statue of Jesus is titled: “I Have Come to Save the World”. It was the idea of Yury Gavrilov, a 49-year-old Russian. The project was backed by both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government. But despite the statue’s Russian backing, it was cast in Armenia by an Armenian sculptor, Artush Papoian. Syria’s Armenians have a long history in Syria, and hence the connection.

The statue stands 40 feet tall, and with its pedestal, a stunning total of 105 feet. It took eight years to complete.

The statue was installed October 14th, 2013 coinciding with two religious holidays. Saidneya’s Orthodox Christians celebrated the feast day of the “Protection of the Most Holy Virgin Mary”, and the Syrian Muslims in Saidneya celebrated the “Corban Feast”. Christians and Muslims have always lived side by side in peace in Syria.

The webpage link attached includes 3 short videos; here are brief descriptions:

Video One (1:58): Foreign backed Islamists continuously attack the monastery in an attempt to take over Saidneya. A Syrian Army member says: “We defend our town. Terrorists attacked the Monastery. We confronted them. We support the Syrian president and we will continue to defend our homeland…

Video Two (2:08): Syrian Army General says: “Terrorist (rebel) groups tried to attack the monastery last Sunday, the third time this week. We killed nearly 140 militants. We have 54 of their bodies … We will never stop defending the homeland …” A witness living in Saidneya then says: “There were about 300 attackers. They burned the bodies (of their dead) because they don’t want us to recognize which nationality they are …”

Video Three (2:56): A pro-government rally is taking place where the villagers of Saidneya voice their support for the Syrian Army and condemn terrorist attacks against civilians. Saidneya is home to an ancient monastery which is a pilgrimage site to millions of Christians. A reporter then discusses the battles going on and states that the greatest challenge to the Syrian Army is that civilians reside in the town and the Islamists hold them hostage. The Syrian Army is trying to clear the area of terrorists without harming civilians.

Video Four: I added this video clip to the webpage to show you a glimpse of Syria’s freedom under the current government. If Islamists take over, music and dance will be banned. This famous Syrian singer, Najwa Karam, would be killed for what she is wearing and for not covering her hair. This is an outdoor concert in Saidneya. Syrians do not want to lose their freedoms. They have a rich culture of music and dance. They do not want to lose their culture to Islamists.

More photos and video links at

Photo credit midiman

Cheri Berens

Cheri Berens

Cheri Berens lives in Egypt working as a researcher for the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. She experienced Egypt’s 2011 and 2013 revolutions and witnessed the Muslim Brotherhood takeover and violence that followed.

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