Aleppo: Scenes from a City of Ruins

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Italian photographer Alessio Romenzi has been chronicling the Syrian civil war for months. The following pictures of his are from a few days in mid-April spent in the battle-scarred city of Aleppo. They include a glimpse of a rebel fighter encamped in the famed Great Mosque of Aleppo, built nearly a thousand years ago by the once mighty Umayyad dynasty.

From its position in the heart of an ancient city, the minaret of the Great Mosque, an elegant 11th century structure erected atop even more ancient Greco-Roman foundations, has seen a lot. It has withstood epochal earthquakes and the collapse of dynasties and empires. When Mongols or other myriad invaders bathed Aleppo’s streets in blood, the mosque remained in stony silence. But this week, the minaret of the mosque—which has been turned into a battleground between rebel forces and those loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad—exploded during the fighting. It’s become yet another pile of rubble in a historic city now defined by its desolation.—Ishaan Tharoor

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ReedSummers
ReedSummers

These photographs of Aleppo inspire a story...


In 2009, I brought a very important person to Aleppo. Marshall Vian Summers is the Messenger for the New Message from God, a 9200 page revelation which has been translated into 16 languages (including Arabic) and has students around the world.

Together we walked through the Umayyad Mosque, had lunch overlooking its thousand-year-old minaret and talked to the shopkeepers of the ancient souq nearby. We walked up towards the old citadel, just in time to face roadblocks and soldiers - not because of any conflict - but because the Turkish foreign ministry was holding holding bilateral trade talks with the Syrian government. From atop the citadel we looked out on Aleppo. It was high Summer and the city hummed and steamed with movement and heat. Already millions of Iraqi refugees had relocated to northern Syria and we wondered aloud about the fate of the country.

That night, The Messenger sat quietly in our small room at the Al Faisal hotel. At his side was a voice recorder. He turned it on, checked the microphone and did a sound test. Then he closed his eyes and waited. A dull silence ensued. Looking over to the closed window, I could hear the blunt honking, revving and shouting of typical evening traffic. Through the faded drapery I looked over the rooftops of the nearby buildings. The sky was gray and the wind was picking up. Above the chaos of satellite dishes, water tanks and laundry hung out to dry, was a Syrian flag flying tall above a government building. It flapped violently against its own flagpole as the wind picked. In that moment Marshall raised his head, eyes closed and the voice began speaking - not his voice - but the voice of revelation now about to deliver page 9201 of the New Message from God.

The first words to emerge:

"While everything appears to be normal in these days, Great Waves of change are coming to the world—change on a level never seen before, change that will affect every person in the world. Greater than the world wars, it will be. Greater than the great pandemics of the past will it be. Great Waves of change, as humanity has plundered the world and has destroyed your natural inheritance to such a great degree that the world will change now, becoming a more difficult place for the human family."

Between each word I felt the heavy stillness of the room. The air was dense. It was as if the room was being loaded under pressure, very high pressure, so that if I rose and opened the window the whole room would depressurize into the world outside. Of course I didn't rise or open the window. I didn't even stir.

And then the words came: "At this moment, you can stand in the middle of a city of two million people and in 20 years, it will be desolate."

Those prophetic words drove into my mind like a steel hammered into the ground. And they're lodged there. As I read about the unfolding tragedy of Aleppo I remember that time in 2009 when everything appeared to be normal. Normal outside that room, outside the closed window with the faded drapes. But inside the room, the voice of the New Message from God bore down with the pressure of 2013, 2017, 2025.

Now Aleppo is caught in a spiral of destruction and disintegration. But it was foreseen. This is why God's New Message must reach the world. Because it can tell the world what is coming.

TyyneAndrews
TyyneAndrews

@ReedSummers Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this essential message to the world. May the words of the New Message reach the people of the world in time. 

jimmy6p
jimmy6p

Except for the one that shows a bomb exploding these all looked like posed photos.

kellyjo5150
kellyjo5150

They're using a sacred mosque as a firing position ?  Shocking.  Not.