Years before the civil war, and before the Islamic State militants declared their so-called caliphate, an American punk drummer from Washington, D.C. was overcome with a wild and urgent impulse to visit Syria.
Jason Hamacher, a photographer and musician, had become captivated by the religious chants of the Syrian Christian community in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. The chants are sung in Syriac, a language that has roots in the Aramaic language once spoken by Jesus. Hamacher was determined to preserve this endangeredancient music.
That first journey in 2006 led to many subsequent trips. He soon developed a network in Aleppo, finding friends in the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities, taking photographs and making recordings along the way.
Five years into the country’s civil war, these images and sounds have taken on a new meaning. Aleppo has been ravaged by fighting since 2012. The eastern half of the city is now controlled by opposition groups, including the al Qaeda branch Jabhat al-Nusra, and the western half is under the control of Syrian forces.
Along with the civil war, the Syrian people are also facing threats from the Islamic State militant group, which began claiming large swaths of Syria in 2014. According to the BBC, the city of Aleppo lies just a few miles south of territory that is under control of IS. Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that IS’ persecution of Christians, Yazidis, and Shi’ite Muslims in Syria amounted to genocide.
Christianity has been part of Syria’s history for two millennia, but thousands of Christians have been forced from their homes since the war began.
Many of the churches Hamacher documented have been damaged in the ongoing power struggle between government forces and opposition groups. Some of the people he befriended have been kidnapped.
To remember what was lost, Hamacher is sharing images of the Christian sites he once visited.
“The whole point of this photo essay is to illustrate or contextualize what the early church looked like and also illustrate that there’s a very good chance that large portions of it are going to be wiped out,” the 39-year-old told The Huffington Post.
Hamacher says he hasn’t been able to return to the country since 2010, so he doesn’t have photos of what these sites look like today. But it was important to him to present an image of the city as he remembers it — a vibrant, cosmopolitan place that was home to people of many different faiths.
“When the before and after is laid out in front of you, people tend to remember the destruction as opposed to the beauty of the place and the traditions it represents,” Hamacher said.
Scroll down to see Hamacher’s images below. HuffPost Religion attempted to find the most up to date information about the current state of these sites to give our readers an idea of how the site has been touched by the war.
Hamacher’s photos will also be displayed at W83, a community center operated by New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, through May 1.
Full Story with the Photo’s – (sorry I could not cut and paste to this site)Source: These Photos Are A Haunting Reminder Of Syrian Christianity Before The War