It’s taller by about a meter than the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. On 14 October, Russian entrepreneur Yuri Gavrilov* and the London-based St. Paul and St. George Foundation realized a years-long dream of erecting a statue of Jesus on a mountain top near Sednaya, Syria (or Saidnaya).
Local reporting, cited by a number of credible news outlets like UAE’s The National, indicates that the parties to the Syrian civil war observed a mutual ceasefire while the statue was being put in place.
The statue was cast in bronze in Armenia, which has longstanding cultural and religious ties to Syria, by Armenian sculptor Artush Papoian. The director of the St. Paul and St. George Foundation, Samir al Ghadban, was instrumental in arranging for the statue to be erected. The statue, now seated near the Monastery of the Cherubim, has been planned since 2005; its installation is not a reaction to the civil war that has raged since 2011.
The statue is titled “I have come to save the world.”
It’s hard to put one’s finger on the sense this news elicits. It’s not melancholy, exactly; certainly not schadenfreude. The news itself is poignant, and perhaps the best description is “a reaction to poignancy.” We need not overvalue a statue, as a way of showing support for Syria’s embattled Christians. But the symbolism has a curious power, and poses a distinct counterpoint to the lack of interest from the precincts of Western officialdom in the plight of Syria’s Christians.
In Obama’s formulation, after all, America is “not a Christian nation.” That leaves him conveniently free to not worry about what it would look like if we were a Christian nation.
Yet out of a sea of blood and sorrow, in an international environment of cynicism and bureaucratic pragmatism, framed by brute force on one side and a soulless, self-abnegating, post-modern disinterest on the other, there arises a quiet token of hope. Someone cares about the Syrians. It took a Russian civilian, an Armenian sculptor, and some Syrian Christians abroad to make the gesture. Against all odds, they succeeded.
* Described by the Moscow Times as being 49 years old; not the soccer star of the same name, who is now 60.