The battle for an ancient Christian city--the oldest in Syria and one of the oldest in the world--comes at a time when the U.S. Congress prepares to vote on President Obama's request to launch bombing raids against Syria.
Maaloula is home to the few remaining people on earth who actually speak the ancient language of Aramaic. That's the same language spoken by Jesus. Not far from the capital city of Damascus, it's a popular tourist attraction for Christian pilgrims. But it's now occupied by militant Islamists, members of the Al Nusra Front, a terrorist organization allied with Al Qaeda.
Al Nusra insists it only attacked and occupied the ancient Christian city because Syrian government troops were positioned there. Some reports from Syrian state media (controlled by the Assad regime) claim that Al Nusra targeted the city simply because it is Christian and then proceeded to destroyed churches and murder members of the Christian community. Al Nusra says the people of Maaloula are being treated well and they've only acted to defend the city and their occupation from government troops.
The Free Syria Army has gotten involved to discredit Assad in all this. They've released a video showing government forces firing shells on rebel positions in the town, destroying the very churches and ancient buildings Assad has claimed the Islamists are damaging. Assad's government says it is fighting back to drive the Al Nusra terrorists out of the town.
Which side should we believe in the midst of war?
Regardless, we know the losers in all this are the Christians who are caught in the middle of opposing Muslim forces. The world also loses as one of the it's most treasured ancient cities is under threat of annihilation.
To learn the latest about Maaloula, watch my interview with Andrew Parasiliti, Editor and CEO of AL Monitor.com