The Other Victims of the War in Syria: Christians Tortured, Terrorized, Killed and Driven From Their Ancient Home
Here, in fact, the development of Christianity started
As we evaluate the various conflicts in the Middle East it is vitally important to be informed by news sources which paint the full picture of what is happening. Catholic Online is committed to being one of those sources. We are called to prophetically bear witness to the Truth as fully revealed in Jesus Christ. We are called to "bear one anothers burdens and fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal. 6:2)
Syrian Christian children
TARTUS, Syria (Catholic Online) - The News Service of the Pontifical Mission Society, Agenzia Fides, recently reported that thousands of Christian refugees have fled the City of Homs and other areas in Syria as the conflict between government forces and Syrian rebels intensifies. These fierce, bloody battles have left these Christians extremely vulnerable. They are in need of our prayers and our solidarity. They are our brethren.
The Christian refugees were driven from their homes by the ongoing war and bloodshed in Syria between forces still loyal to the current regime and a combination of rebel forces which is sseeking to overthrow it. These Christians have joined the approximately 150,000 other Christians who are already living under virtual siege in the forty villages referred to as the "Valley of the Christians" in western Syria.
The Valley of Wadi al Nasara has been the site of a ferocious assault being waged by rebel militia against government forces. The rebel militia has settled in a fortress named "Krak des Chevaliers". It was once used by the Crusaders in their battles with militant Muslims in centuries past. This former Crusader castle is now occupied by rebel forces, many of whom share the militant Islamist views of the Muslims whom the Crusaders fought. They are engaged in fierce, bloody battles with troops loyal to Syrian Dictator/President Bashar al-Assad. From there they launch their relentless attacks.
The report insinuated that the Christians are "collateral victims" in the conflict. Fides reported, "The Christian civilians are "collateral victims" that are affected without any care! In recent days, a rain of fire hit the village of Howache, destroying several houses, killing three young Christians. And, in recent weeks, the Christian community in the valley had already counted nine other deaths." A local Orthodox priest told Fides News Agency that, "Christians - - are very fragile and they want to be neutral, but today our valley is beset by violence and instability that confuses and frightens us. Violence covers and nullifies everything: we are not able to be instruments of dialogue and cohesion, as we want to be." The priest asked the warring parties to "not hit civilians gratuitously, to respect the neutrality of the Christians for their faith and identity, they want to be a factor of reconciliation."
The castle which is now occupied by the rebel troops was built in the 11th century by a Muslim emir. It was later rebuilt by the Knights Hospitallers, whom we know as the Knights of Malta. The Fides report is charitable in its assessment that Christians are being killed unintentionally. Many other reports paint a much different picture. It is important to remember that Christians in Syria were there long before the Muslims. We have a two thousand year history in the Middle East. Syria was the home of many monks, mystics and missionaries of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Some of the most beautiful of the Patristic writings were penned by Syrian Saints and the Liturgy and hymnody of the early Church was enriched by the worship of those same wonderful saints.
Christians in Syria now only make up approximately 10% of the population. They suffer intense persecution. A recent report in the British newspaper, The Independent entitled The plight of Syria's Christians gives a different assessment. The reporter, Kim Sengupta, interviewed the Haddads, a Christian family fleeing Homs: "We left because they were trying to kill us," said 18-year-old Noura Haddad. She is now staying with relations in the town of Zahle in the Bekaa Valley. "They wanted to kill us because we were Christians. They were calling us Kaffirs, even little children saying these things. Those who were our neighbors turned against us. At the end, when we ran away, we went through balconies. We did not even dare go out on the street in front of our house. I've kept in touch with the few Christian friends left back home, but I cannot speak to my Muslim friends any more. I feel very sorry about that."
Melkite Catholic Archbishop Archbishop Issam John Darwish told the Independent that the increase of violence against Christians is the work of Jihadists who have joined the ranks of the rebel troops. He stated, "I have raised this with officials in the West, they must bring peace. The jihadis will not stop here, the war will spread to Europe. What will England be like in ten or 15 years?" The international Catholic Agency Aid to the Church in Need helps persecuted and oppressed Christians around the world. They interviewed the Archbishop before the Holy Father's visit to Lebanon. Their reporting is always reliable and they ...
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