ALEPPO, Syria — Walking through the largely Christian neighborhoods of Aleppo city — Azizieh, Siryan, Sulaimaniyah and Midan — you can still see the posters of the two bishops kidnapped by Islamist militants last year hanging on shop windows, walls and even cars. The people here haven’t forgotten them; the event is still as painful and fresh as if it had happened just yesterday. The bishops’ kidnapping was a symbolic event, indicative of the larger collapse of interfaith communal relations in a country under the strain of a sectarian civil war, and marked the end of a long era of relative peace and safety for the Christians of Syria.
The streets themselves portray a deceptive and surreal kind of war “normalcy,” the kind where pockmarked buildings, mortar holes on the roads, shredded cars, even bloodstained sidewalks are the usual and expected sights as people go about their daily lives without a second glance. This is life now, this is reality here. What it was like before the war is no longer relevant, the memories of those distant and beautiful bygone days do not matter or factor in any more.