As the horrifying actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) reached mainstream consciousness last month, I found myself driving my car angry and unsettled. The gravity of this situation defied my capacity for understanding. Then the NPR station I had on played some modern-day Syrian men singing the Lord’s Prayer in ancient Aramaic, and I lost it.
That afternoon, the deeply spiritual power of music came in the form of ancient Christian chants. These had been recorded by punk rock drummer Jason Hamacher on location in Aleppo, Syria, just before the civil war broke out. I had known Hamacher years ago as the drummer for Frodus and other post-hardcore bands. But here he was, on NPR’s Fresh Air of all places, talking about Syriac hymns, an abducted Orthodox bishop and all hell breaking loose in the Middle East. I honestly had to pull over and catch my breath.
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