BEIRUT — In the midst of a conflict rife with sectarianism, a giant bronze statue of Jesus has gone up on a Syrian mountain, apparently under cover of a truce among three factions in the country’s civil war.
Jesus stands, arms outstretched, on the Cherubim mountain, overlooking a route pilgrims took from Constantinople to Jerusalem in ancient times. The statue is 40 feet tall and stands on a base that brings its height to 105 feet, organizers of the project estimate.
That the statue made it to Syria and went up without incident on Oct. 14 is remarkable. The project took eight years and was set back by the civil war that followed the March 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad.
Christians and other minorities are all targets in the conflict, and the statue’s safety is by no means guaranteed. It stands among villages where some fighters, linked to al-Qaida, have little sympathy for Christians.
So why put up a giant statue of Christ in the midst of such setbacks and so much danger?
Because “Jesus would have done it,” organizer Samir al-Ghadban quoted a Christian church leader as telling him.
The backers’ success in overcoming the obstacles shows the complexity of civil war, where sometimes despite the atrocities the warring parties can reach short-term truces.
Al-Ghadban said the main armed groups in the area — Syrian government forces, rebels and the local militias of Sednaya, the Christian town near the statue site — halted fire while organizers set up the statue, without providing further details.
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Isn't this a hopeful announcement? It actually seems to verge on the miraculous, given the level of violence against Christians in that area. I pray that the project is not allowed, only to be destroyed later, but that's not a good way to think. Better to think positively, and pray that because of this statue, and the cirumstances surrounding its completion, that people might take a second look at Jesus, and why such disparate factions were able to tacitly agree to make this testament to him possible.
Jesus did say that if he were lifted up, that he would draw all men to himself. Even with the scanty information that the world knows from the Biblical records, there's enough of Jesus there to make Jesus a most attractive person. He taught love, compassion, forgiveness and peace. What's not to love? Jesus is the Prince of Peace. And what better part of the world to display this man of peace, in the midst of strife?
Eventually, as the teachings of The Urantia Book continue to permeate humanity's consciousness - and the Life and Teachings of Jesus as presented in the Papers continue to inform traditional progressive Christian thought - the world's picture of Jesus will mature and enlarge so that he will draw even more of his children to himself.
May it be done...