Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

12/16/2012 (1 year 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 (1 year 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'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More Middle East

ISLAMIC STATE PREPARES CHRISTIAN HOLOCAUST Watch

Image of Iraqi Christians are being forced to flee Mosul or be put to death. It's the start of a campaign of genocide. Leave with nothing or die.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Imagine you've been given a choice, and just days to make it. You must either change your religion, agree to pay thousands of dollars each year in punishing taxes, or you must leave your home with just the clothes on your back. No suitcases, no possessions. If you ... continue reading


Christian Monks expelled from Iraqi monastery as ISIS Islamists fighters ruthlessly sieze it Watch

Image of An image made available by the jihadist Twitter account Al-Baraka news on June 11, 2014 allegedly shows militants of the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waving the Islamic Jihad flag and holding up their weapons as a vehicle drives on a newly cut road through the Syrian-Iraqi border between the Iraqi Nineveh province and the Syrian town of Al-Hasakah.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Saint Behnam, a fourth-century monastery run by the Syriac Catholic church near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh in Iraq has been overrun by jihadists. Members of the Islamic State expelled the monks from the monastery this past weekend, sources ... continue reading


THINGS TO COME? ISIS stones Syrian woman to death over 'adultery charges' Watch

Image of Many fear that the recent stoning incident proves that ISIS will impose a brutal regime over the areas they seize.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Al-Qaeda-breakaway group, the Islamic State, has now stoned a woman to death for adultery in Syria. It was the first such execution carried out in the region, and depicts the stranglehold this radical group now has over the region of northern Syria. LOS ... continue reading


CRIES FOR HELP: Head of Iraq's Catholic Church issues appeal 'to all who have a living conscience' Watch

Image of ISIS had reportedly marked the doors of Christians in red last month. Patriarch Sako's letter confirms that rumor.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In an appeal "to all who have a living conscience in Iraq and all the world," Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, head of Iraq's Catholic Church, has issued a plea for international support. He says that the situation for Iraq's Christians has been steadily ... continue reading


Israel authorizes another call up of 18,000 reserve troops as Gaza offensives continues Watch

Image of Israeli troops have pushed into the Gaza strip in an attempt to target and weaken Hamas militants.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Israeli military has pushed deeper into the Gaza strip, destroying rocket launching sites and tunnels and clashing with Palestinian fighters. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Israel began this military operation on July 17, in an attempt to weaken Hamas ... continue reading


UNBELIEVABLE: 20 rockets found at United Nations agency in Gaza Watch

Image of This latest incident would confirm Israel's oft-repeated claim that Hamas and other Gazan terror groups use civilian infrastructure to hide weapons.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Some 20 rockets were found in a school in Gaza operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The weapons were found in "the course of the regular inspection of its premises," the United Nations Relief and Works Agency said in a statement. The agency ... continue reading


Ground invasion more likely, in spite of ceasefire in Gaza Watch

Image of Relatives of a 25-year-old Palestinian man who was killed in an Israeli airstrike, mourn over his body during his funeral on July 16 in Gaza City.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Israel agreed to cease fire on Gaza for five hours to allow humanitarian aid into the Palestinian territory. Israel at the same time warned that the likelihood of a ground invasion was growing, just as long as militants in Gaza kept up rocket attacks. LOS ... continue reading


What is the mysterious object found in the Sea of Galilee? Watch

Image of A strange object has been found in the Sea of Galilee, twice the size of the ancient Stonehenge monument in England.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A mysterious structure, with a diameter greater than the length of a 747 jet has been discovered under 30 feet of water, underneath the Sea of Galilee in Israel. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The circular structure was first discovered in 2003 when they used ... continue reading


Guest Commentary: Headline: Israel Hits Gaza (Gaza hits Israel? Shhh!) Watch

Image of Ken Blackwell, a visiting professor at the Liberty University School of Law and serves on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Bob Morrison is a senior Fellow at Family Research Council, in Washington, D.C.

By Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison

When Hamas rockets rain down on Israeli cities and towns-and homes, schools, and hospitals, it is not news. It happens ever day, so it becomes like a weather report. Thousands of Hamas rockets have been fired at Israeli homes. Thousands. This coverage brings to ... continue reading


KETTLE CALLING POT BLACK? Taliban warns ISIS to 'avoid extremism' Watch

Image of The Afghan Taliban has urged the Sunni faction, which has been waging a bloody insurgency against Shi'ite Muslim groups in Iraq, to avoid

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's an extraordinary gesture, suggesting that ISIS is overstepping the line a bit in its assault on Iraq. No less than the Taliban militants in Afghanistan are warning ISIS insurgents fighting in Iraq to "avoid extremism" in a plea for unity among jihadists. ... 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, Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10
1 The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17
1 In you, Yahweh, I take refuge, I shall never be put ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:1-9
1 That same day, Jesus left the house and sat by the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 23rd, 2014 Image

St. Bridget of Sweden
July 23: Saint Birgitta was the daughter of Upplandís Lagman, Birger ... 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