Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

12/16/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

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

Syrian Christian children

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

12/16/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Middle East

Keywords: Syria, Syrian, Wadi al Nasara, Homs, Valley of the Christians, Bashar al-Assad, Syrian Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Maronite, Christian persecution, Jihadis, anti-Catholic, Deacon Keith Fournier


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 are a good resource for all of our readers concerned about our brethren in Syria and throughout the Middle East.

In October, the body of a beloved Greek Orthodox priest, Fr Fadi Haddad, 43, was found along the side of a road. He had been mutilated and his eyes were gouged out. A young mother and close family friend told Aid to the Church in Need, "My family and friends very much feel under threat. People from the area have said that extremists have gone through the streets shouting 'Alawites to the grave, Christians to Beirut'.They want to kick us out. They say that if Christians refuse to leave they will end up in the grave like the Alawites.(a Shia sect)

"Nobody seems to care what is happening to us Christians in Syria.The government we had in the past was bad but at least we were safe. At least we could walk the streets. You'd never think you might be bombed by extremists. Not anymore. Now it's very scary. Now they are bombing churches. Look at what has happened to our churches in places like Aleppo and Homs. The extremists threaten us Christians when we want to celebrate major feasts like Christmas and Easter. They don't want us in the area at all."

Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim presided over Fr Haddad's funeral Liturgy. He had ordained him to the Holy Priesthood in 1995. He called the slain priest a "martyr of reconciliation and harmony". He added: "We strongly condemn this brutal and barbaric act against civilians, the innocent and the men of God who strive to be apostles of peace."

Like most of my readers, the continual images coming out of the Syrian tragedy plague me. The horrors inflicted upon men, women and children by a regime which seems to have no conscience continually fill our television, computer and smart phone screens with an almost surreal regularity. However, the infliction of wounds and murderous behavior is not limited to the current regime in Syria. Some who claim to be combating the regime seem just as hell bent on killing, maiming and inflicting evil upon the people of Syria. These rebel troops are increasingly controlled by Jihadists.

Evil knows no bounds. It must be exposed by the only force able to vanquish it, the love of the God whose heart breaks for the victims; the God who is fully revealed in the Sacred Heart of His beloved Son which was pierced by the soldiers spear on Golgotha's Hill.  That is why, in the face of all that happens in the Middle East, I try to pay special attention to the plight of the Christians in that ancient land which has such a rich place in our Christian history.  I also try, as Editor in Chief of Catholic Online, to call regular attention to the plight of our Christian brethren who suffer such intense persecution precisely because they remain faithful to the ancient faith.

Last month I wrote an article entitled "Trappist Nuns in Syria Challenge Us to Live as Messengers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace"  These heroic nuns intentionally moved from their motherhouse in Italy to this area in Syria to pray for peace and become a place of refuge for the suffering Church and others who seek peace. These holy and happy nuns of Syria make me proud to be a Catholic Christian. Their life reveals the beauty of the prophetic and timeless mission of the Catholic Church. In 2005 they left their beautiful Monastery of Valserena in Italy to found a monastery in Syria. They left a place of peace for a place plagued by the intrinsic evil of war.

They were inspired by the heroic witness of seven Cistercian monks of Tibhirine who were martyred in 1996 in Algeria. The witness of these heroic monks is chronicled in an extraordinary film entitled "Of Gods and Men". You can read more about the life and sacrificial service of these holy women here. I call the sisters  to the attention of my readers once again in order to encourage you to pray for them - and with them for the Christians of Syria. These nuns stand at the center of the Lord's profound plan for this beautiful land which is the home of some of our most inspiring descendants as Christians.

They explained their decision to leave Italy and travel to Syria in these words: "There is another important reason for choosing this land to build a new monastic foundation, even if, indeed, we were led to Syria by the providence. Here, in fact, the development of Christianity started. It shortly spread throughout Minor Asia , Greece, Rome and then Armenia, India up to China.Since (the) first centuries, the missionary action was borne and carried out by a very much lively monastic movement, arisen in the same time and independently as regards to the Egyptian one, more well-known. Saints like Aphrahat, Ephrem the Syrian, Simeon Stylites, Maron, Isaac of Nineveh and many others following their marks like John Chrysostom and John of Damascus, started a very rich spiritual tradition. We want to follow in the wake of them, starting from our Latin and Benedictine tradition, convinced about the fruitfulness coming from a deep exchange between the Eastern and Western heritage."
 
We are living in a new missionary age. Whether in the West, where the memory of Christian influence fades under increasing persecution inflicted by rabid secularism and godless modernism, or in the East, which bleeds under the overt persecution from Jihadists and despots, the challenge we face is the same. 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) 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. 

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More Middle East

ISIS DOOMSDAY PLAN: Islamic State plans to invade India to draw United States into conflict Watch

Image of The document says that reparations for an attack on India are already underway, in  which ISIS leaders hope concludes with a war with the U.S.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A nefarious plot to draw the United States into armed conflict with Islamic State has been revealed in a top-secret document. In an attempt to bring about "the end of the world," the document states that ISIS will invade India in a bid to draw the U.S. into an all-out ... continue reading


Taliban leader, 'One-Eye' Mullah Omar confirmed dead Watch

Image of Mullah Mohammad Omar is confirmed to be dead according to the Afghan government.

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Afghan government confirmed Taliban leader "One-Eye" Mullah Mohammad Omar has been dead for more than two years. The militant leader died "under mysterious circumstances" in a hospital in Karachi City in Pakistan in April 2013, according to Abdul Hassib Seddiqi, a ... continue reading


Australian reality TV stars 'shot at' by ISIS in Syria Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Australian public broadcaster, SBS defended the reality show where participants were shot at by ISIS militants in Syria. The incident was said to be a part of a trip retracing refugees' journeys and that those involved had wide security provisions. MUNTINLUPA, ... continue reading


'End of the world' ISIS document reveals terrorist group's world domination plan Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A suspected ISIS recruitment document discovered in Pakistan's anarchic tribal lands revealed that the religious extremist group has ostentatious ambitions of building a new terrorist army in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in addition to triggering a war in India to provoke ... continue reading


STARVATION: One in two families in Yemen has no idea where their next meal is coming from Watch

Image of The problem is so severe, one in two of Yemen's people, or nearly 13 million struggle to find bread for their mouths.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

One of the greatest casualties of war is displaced civilian populations left without the necessities of life. In Yemen, nearly 4,000 people have been killed with more than 1.2 million people displaced. On ongoing battle between Houthi rebels and forces loyal to exiled ... continue reading


Iran's Assets Uncovered: Iran cash windfall from Iran nuclear deal estimated at $150 billion Watch

Image of Iran celebrates nuclear deal.

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A total of $150 billion is estimated to be the amount Iran will receive from the Iran deal. This amount will provide the country more than the $124.3 billion the U.S. has given to Israel in total financial aid since 1948. MUNTINLUPA CITY, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) ... continue reading


Refugee boy beaten for selling tissues at Turkish restaurant galvanizes nation Watch

Image of Ahmet's story is one of millions of Syrians. Forced to flee to Turkey because of his homeland's civil war, his family lives in a two-bedroom apartment without electricity and running water.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It was a shocking incident that drew attention to the plight of millions of refugees living in host countries. Thirteen-year-old Ahmet Hamdo, whose large Syrian family fled the war-torn town of Aleppo, was beaten mercilessly by a Turkish restaurant owner for selling ... continue reading


ISIS leader sentences a woman to be beheaded as wedding present to cruel female Sharia judge Watch

Image of [Photo By: Jamie Wiseman/ Mail Online]

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi personally sanctioned a women to be beheaded, as a wedding present to a brutal female "judge" in the terror group's feared religious police. The cruel woman asked to slaughter an unbelieving "infidel" in return for taking a new husband after the ... continue reading


Australian man anxious to fight against Islamic State - is detained and arrested Watch

Image of Jamie Reece Williams was in court in Melbourne after counter-terrorism officers charged him with preparing to enter a foreign country with the intention of engaging in hostile activities.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Australian authorities have clamped down a misguided attempt at heroism. Jamie Reece Williams, from suburban Melbourne was arrested after he allegedly try to fly to northern Iraq to join Kurdish forces battling Islamic State. It remains illegal for any Australian to ... continue reading


YOU WILL NOT TAKE MY HEAD! - Notorious ISIS executioner 'Jihadi John' now on the run from his former bosses Watch

Image of There are rumors that Jihadi John had been moved by ISIS to Libya, where he supposedly attended a terror training camp with Sousse gunman Seifeddine Rezgui.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

He was at one time the most visible and dreaded figure in the Islamic State terror group . now, "Jihadi John" has fled for his life, afraid that his ISIS overlords were planning to kill him with as much leniency mercy as he did captive journalists. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


All Middle East News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Numbers 11:4-15
4 The rabble who had joined the people were feeling ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 81:12-13, 14-15, 16-17
12 So I left them to their stubborn selves, to follow ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 14:13-21
13 When Jesus received this news he withdrew by boat ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 3rd, 2015 Image

St. Lydia Purpuraria
August 3: Lydia Purpuraria (1st century) was born at Thyatira (Ak-Hissar), ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter