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Christians persecuted in Syria

Date of publication: 13/06/2012

A church in Homs

Agenzia Fides, 13 June 2012

A Greek Catholic Church desecrated in Qusayr: an alarm signal

Qusayr  - A band of radical militiamen broke into the Greek-catholic church of St. Elias in Qusayr this morning, near the town of Homs, desecrating it. The militiamen forced the door, rang the bells in mockery, laughed at the sacred symbols of the Christian faith with the sole purpose of carrying out a demonstrative act and making a mockery of the Christian community. "It is the first time, in the ongoing conflict, that such an episode occurs, in which sacred symbols are deliberately hit," notes with concern a local source of Fides. 

In Qusayr the Christians who have chosen to remain are very few, mostly elderly people who were unwilling to abandon their homes. In fact, in the ultimatum launched by an armed faction (see Fides 9 and 12/6/2012), in past days, about a thousand Christians, who were still in town, have abandoned their homes, taking refuge in the surrounding countryside or relatives in other Syrian cities. Some eyewitnesses "saddened and frightened – told Fides about the break-in the church in Qusayr". The act was condemned by Catholic priests and authorities who talk about the "worrying sign, which confirms the attempt of some armed gangs to unleash a sectarian war." 

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Agenzia Fides, 12 June 2012

Christian killed in Qusayr, where two priests confirm the ultimatum to Christians

Qusayr (Agenzia Fides) - The Christian Maurice Bitar was killed in Qusayr, near the town of Homs where the Christian population - about a thousand people out of 10 thousand who lived there before the beginning of the violence - has been forced to flee after the 'ultimatum launched by an armed faction in the opposition forces led by General Abdel Salam Harba (see Fides 09/06/2012). As anticipated by Fides, some Christians, after the warning, however, chose to remain in Qusayr, exposing themselves to considerable risks. Maurice Bitar was killed by a sniper, with three other men while he was out of the house to buy bread for his family. The Christian inhabitants of Qusayr, local sources of Fides report, suffer harassment such as no vehicular access on streets and the obligation to "give way" if they meet a Muslim, "as in the days of the Ottoman caliphate," notes the source of Fides .

The armed opposition, in fact, as confirmed by numerous observers in Syria and abroad, is gradually radicalizing towards Sunni extremist ideology. There are numerous gangs and military groups that operate in a totally independent manner, outside the coordination of the Free Syrian Army. The ultimatum launched by the faction of Abdel Salam Harba, for example, was not ratified by other groups: in a statement sent to Fides, the coordination of the same Free Syrian Army, stationed at Qusayr, says it is "shocked by the news" and rejects the ultimatum, saying that it is not responsible and does not share it in any way. Two Catholic priests who fled in recent days from Qusayr, reached by Fides, confirm, however, that they heard "with their ears" of the ultimatum, repeated from the minarets of mosques, and left the city with many refugee families. 

According to Fides sources, "the situation is unsustainable in the area and exposed to total lawlessness." Christians face a harsh reality: they either join the opposition, enlisting their young ones, or are victims of harassment, discrimination, violence. The fate of Christians in Qusary, concludes the source, could soon touch the 10 thousand faithful who live in other villages in the area, such as Dmeineh, Rableh and Hamra. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 12/6/2012)

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Agenzia Fides, 4 June 2012

"The desolation of Homs and the war of information ": the words of a greek-catholic Bishop

Damascus  - "Peace in Syria could be saved if everyone told the truth. After a year of conflict, the reality on the ground is far from the picture that imposes disinformation in Western media": says a testimony sent to Fides Agency by the French Bishop Philip Tournyol Clos, a greek-Catholic Melkite Archimandrite, who recently visited Syria, by traveling to different cities, like Damascus, Aleppo and Homs. 

In Homs, called the "martyred city", "opposition forces have occupied two areas, Diwan Al Bustan and Hamidieh, where there are all the churches and bishoprics," the Archimandrite told Fides. "The picture for us – he continues - is utter desolation: the church of Mar Elian is half destroyed and that of Our Lady of Peace is still occupied by the rebels. Christian homes are severely damaged due to the fighting and completely emptied of their inhabitants, who fled without taking anything. The area of Hamidieh is still shelter to armed groups independent of each other, heavily armed and bankrolled by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. All Christians (138,000) have fled to Damascus and Lebanon, while others took refuge in the surrounding countryside. A priest was killed and another was wounded by three bullets. Still a couple live there, but the five bishops have had to take refuge in Damascus and Lebanon. "The Christian leader continues: "In the capital car bombs and assassinations on behalf of Islamist suicide bombers, drawn by the desire of heaven, that cradle the dream of the end of the Alawite regime are feared. Currently the country, through the bloody work of adventurers who are not Syrian is trying to be destabilized. The former French ambassador, Eric Chevallier, reported this information, which was always rejected, while many details remain to be forged to keep the war against Syria," denounced the Bishop to Fides. In Damascus in recent weeks, there were terrible attacks that ended with a toll: of 130 deaths (including 34 Christians), 400 injured and many houses damaged. "The consternation was general, indescribable pain," notes the Archimandrite, recalling that "the Syrians are simple and playful people." As far as Christians are concerned the Bishop says: "Christians live in peace, sharing the sufferings of all, but they are ready to admit that they have never felt so free in the past and to remember the full recognition of their rights, given to them by this government." Mgr. Philip Tournyol Clos says the key to Syrian Christian and Muslim leaders, who say: "The enemies of Syria have enlisted some of the Muslim Brotherhood in order to destroy the brotherly relations that traditionally existed between Muslims and Christians: Yet, to date,they are not able to: they have provoked a contrary reaction and the two communities are more united than before." The Syrian soldiers in fact, continue to face foreign fighters, mercenaries Libyans, Lebanese militants from the Gulf, Afghans, Turks. "The Sunni Salafist militants - says the Bishop - continue to commit crimes against civilians, or to recruit fighters with force. The fanatical Sunni extremists are fighting a holy war proudly, especially against the Alawites. When terrorists seek to control the religious identity of a suspect, they ask him to cite the genealogies dating back to Moses. And they ask to recite a prayer that the Alawites removed. The Alawites have no chance to get out alive." (PA) (Agenzia Fides 04/06/2012) 


Centre for the Study of Interventionism