SYRIA: Surviving conflict untouched, church in Khabur village of Tel Rumman still sits empty

TEL TAMR, Syria — The ringing of church bells in the predominantly Syriac–Assyrian Khabur River Valley of North and East Syria has become exceedingly rare. The invasion of the region by the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2015 marked the beginning of a period of displacement and emigration of the Syriac-Assyrian people of Khabur amidst the destruction of their holy places.

The Church of the Virgin Mary of Tel Rumman, although physically untouched by conflict, has remains largely unused.

The church, inaugurated in 2007 with the support of the Bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East in Syria, Bishop Mor Avram Athnel, was recently restored and has become a focal point of religious live in the Khabur.

A member of our newsdesk in the town of Tel Tamr met with Charbel Khoshaba, a young man from Tel Rumman and one of the few who have remained in the village. Khoshaba spoke to our correspondent about the history of the church and why it sits largely empty.

“The church opened its doors in 2007 and was restored and expanded due to the growing population of the village at that time,” Khoshaba said.

During the war against ISIS in 2015, the villagers were displaced to Hasakah city, and when the village was liberated from terrorism, some of them returned and occasionally hold holy ceremonies and celebrations,” Khoshaba said.

“Often, Divine Masses cannot be held in the church — we hold Mass in Hasakah —because of the shortage of support for the church.”

Attempts to make the Khabur Region an own canton for the Syriac (Chaldean-Assyrian-Aramean) ) people have so far remained unsuccessful.