Syrian Churches During Years of Crisis: Desecration, Destruction, and Restoration

DARAMSUQ — In 2011, the crisis in Syria began, sparing no geographical area and affecting every component of the Syrian population. From north to south and east to west, the impact varied, influenced by factors such as religion, political orientation, and proximity to escalating conflict zones.

One of the most significant events during the crisis occurred in 2015 when Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists demolished eight churches in the Khabur River Valley, including the iconic Virgin Mary Church in Tel Nasri. On Easter morning, these acts of destruction aimed to suppress life for the indigenous Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean) people. However, the Syriac Military Council’s (Mawtbo Fulḥoyo Suryoyo, MFS) heroic resistance and sacrifice of its martyrs reclaimed the land, restoring life to the villages and churches of Khabur.

The wave of destruction extended to various areas, with churches in the Zalin (Qamishli) countryside also bearing the brunt. Saint Melki Church in Gardouka and the Virgin Mary Church in Tel Jahan were bombed, alongside the Church of the Virgin Mary in Zalin and the damaged domes of the Monastery of the Virgin Mary in Tel Wardiyat.

Further atrocities unfolded in Maaloula, Al-Qaryatayn, and Sadad, where the Church of Saint Thecla, the Monastery of Saint Elian, and other churches witnessed brutal attacks, resulting in tragic massacres of the local population.

Notably, Raqqa, the proclaimed capital of the ISIS caliphate, saw the transformation of the Church of the Martyrs into a terrorist court before its complete destruction. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), including the Syriac Military Council, in collaboration with international coalition forces, eventually liberated the city.

The relentless destruction of churches and the violation of Christian property became a major catalyst for their emigration from their ancestral lands, significantly decreasing their numbers in Syria during the crisis due to the prevailing insecurity.

The Syrian crisis also witnessed natural disasters, with a devastating earthquake in February 2023 affecting northern and northwestern regions. This seismic event played a role in the destruction of some churches in Holeb and Latakia with ongoing efforts to restore and revive affected areas.

Below is a list of some churches destroyed during the Syrian crisis.

Hasakah and the Khabur River Valley:

  • Church of the Virgin Mary in Tel Nasri
  • Church of Saint Rabban Theo in Tal Hormuz
  • Saint George Church in Qabr Shamiya
  • Monastery of the Virgin Mary in Tel al-Wardiyat
  • Saint Mar Melki Church in Gardouka
  • Church of the Virgin Mary in Tel Jehan

Dayro Zcuro (Deir ez-Zor):

  • Virgin Mary of the Syriac Orthodox Church
  • Church of the Armenian Martyrs “Forty Martyrs”
  • Latin Church
  • Virgin Mary of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church

Holeb (Aleppo):

  • Saint George Church
  • Saint Ephrem Syriac Orthodox Bishopric in Sulaymaniyah neighborhood
  • Saint Elias Maronite Church

Daramsuq (Damascus):

  • The Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross (largest church in Syria)
  • Cyril Church

Daramsuq Countryside:

  • Saint Elias Al-Ghayur Church
  • Virgin Mary for Greek Orthodox Church

Hmoth (Homs):

  • The Virgin Mary Umm Al-Zanar Syriac Orthodox Church
  • Martyr Elian Al-Homsi Greek Orthodox Church


  • Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church in Al-Qasab village

Edleb (Idlib):

  • Church of Youhanna Al-Maamadani
  • Saint George Greek Orthodox Church

Druco (Daraa):

  • Church of Saints Leonce and Bacchus in the city of Busra al-Sham