The Islamic State (ISIS) has left several areas in Iraq and Syria in ruins, but something important for Roman Catholics was miraculously spared from the destruction: the bones of the Syrian saint named Mar Elian.
The relics of the fourth-century revered figure were left undamaged by ISIS militants who destroyed a monastery in Syria bearing the saint's name, Crux Now reported.
Once a pilgrimage site, the Monastery of St. Elian located near the Syrian town of Al-Qaryatayn was vandalised and ultimately destroyed by ISIS militants in August last year. The members of the extremist group also abducted some Christians in the area at that time.
Father Jacques Mourad, who was among those who escaped after being held captive by ISIS militants, said the relics of St. Elian are regarded as a source of hope among Christians in the area, noting that they were able to survive the destruction wrought by the extremists.
"In Mar Elian, we have always hoped to welcome everyone. Mar Elian was really a sign of hope for the Syrian people," Mourad said.
"When ISIS troops took the region, among the first things they attacked was Mar Elian's tomb, with the aim to destroy only the ancient monastery... After the destruction of the monastery, we thought his relics were lost, but instead we were able to find them. This gave us great consolation," the priest added.
He further described the discovery of the saint's bones as "a great sign of hope for the coming days."
The Catholic saint's story is also similar to the plight of the Christians being persecuted in the Middle Eastern country. Saint Elian was martyred during the fourth century for refusing to renounce Christianity.
Christians in Syria plan to place the bones of Saint Elian back in the place where they were originally kept as they try to bring their lives back to normal after being liberated from ISIS rule.