Syria: Will Christianity be forced to disappear?

Source: FSSPX News

Sadad is a town with 15,000 inhabitants in the Qalamoun Mountains, on the road between Homs and Damascus. Armed Islamist groups from the Farouq Brigade, from the Al-Nusra front and from the Islamist states of Iraq and the Levant took Sadad at dawn on October 21, 2013, in the same way as Ma'loula. They occupied the town for a week and executed 45 people, broke into all the homes, damaged and profaned the churches and antique books, destroyed the hospital and the clinic, and took 1500 families hostage for use as human shields. “Approximately 2500 families have fled from Sadad, with only the clothes on their backs,” said Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, Syro-Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama.

The currently preferred strategy of the armed bands is to improvise raids that terrorize citizens and make them flee. The citizens of Ma'loula who took refuge in Damascus have formed a committee, one of whose representatives told Catholic news agency Fides, “Islamic extremism is becoming more and more discriminatory. We feel completely unprotected. We are requesting an intervention from the United Nations Commission in Geneva.” Other sources told Fides that “the purpose of these attacks on minorities is to show them that it is impossible for them to keep living here, and by extension to fragment Syria into religious groups.”

Syrian Christians have been slow to take up arms in self-defence. However, popular committees are beginning to be formed to prevent violence, for example in Wadi al Nasara, the “Valley of Christians” in western Syria, a traditional stronghold of Syrian Christianity. In this valley can be found more than 50 Christian villages with 100,000 Christian inhabitants; 200,000 refugees have come to join them. These villages are also subject to raids from armed groups, but meetings are organized on a local level between priests and imams.

Archbishop Boutros Marayati of the Armenian Catholics in Aleppo told Fides in mid-October, “Lately a rumour has been going around to the effect that 17 countries have opened their doors to Syrian refugees. This news has given additional impetus to the movement, which includes Christians, to leave Syria.”

On October 16th, the Russian minister of foreign affairs published a letter on his website sent him by “nearly 50,000 Syrian Christians who are doctors, engineers, lawyers, entrepreneurs and who are requesting Russian citizenship.” After fleeing the plateaus between Damascus and Homs, the Christians of Ma'loula, Saydnaya, Maara Saydnaya, and Maaroun “fear they will be exterminated by the terrorists supported by the West,” which is why they have “chosen to request Russian citizenship.” “None of us wish to leave our homes. We have what we need, we are not asking for financial assistance,” the letter’s signatories say.

On October 17, Bishop Elias Sleiman of the Maronite Eparchy of Latakieh, told Aid to the Church in Need: “The problem with all the media is that they do not grasp the situation as it really is. The Arab Spring was clearly depicted as a movement to promote freedom and democracy, but the actual results, for example in Libya, in Egypt and in Yemen, are proving the exact opposite.” (…) “At this very moment, in Syria it is correct to say that the moderate rebels and the Islamists have begun fighting among themselves. The major world powers must intervene, now, to prevent Syria from falling into total chaos.” The Syrian bishop also asked, “Why do jihadists and Moslem fundamentalists come to Syria, and to other countries, and do everything to make coexistence impossible?” The coastal region of Latakieh, where the Alawite Moslems originated, is now the destination of choice for both Moslem and Christian Syrians who have fled Damascus, Alep and Homs.

The opposition to the Damascus regime is overflowing with Islamist extremists. “The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” is a faction linked to al-Qaeda, which was solely responsible, in various areas of Syria, for the armed insurrection against the Damascus regime, according to Fides. The goal this faction has set for itself is the creation of an Islamic caliphate in the areas it controls; local populations undergo indoctrination campaigns based on jihadist ideology. For several months jihadists and Kurds have disputed the control of northeastern Syria, the country’s main wheat-producing region that is also rich in oil. In a conflict where the opposition is splitting into smaller and smaller groups, the Kurds are defending their territory before all else, from which the army has retreated and where they want to establish an autonomous zone like Iraqi Kurdistan.

The first general congress of Eastern Christians was held October 26 – 27 in Raboueh near Beirut, Lebanon, and was organized by Dr. Fouad Abou Nader, president of the Lebanese party Liberty Front and former leader of the Christian resistance in Lebanon along with Bachir Gemayel. “Representatives from all 14 Eastern Churches” were present. “We have brought together Christians from Turkey, Iran, from the entire Middle East; from Egypt and even from Morocco. It is an exceptional event!” he stated, and emphasized the pressing need to meet “to unify our vision, to plan our future in this region, to evaluate our relationship with Moslems, who sometimes consider us second-class citizens.”

The first general congress of Eastern Christians took place in the presence of former president of the Lebanese parliament Hussein Husseini, of Michel Aoun, leader of the Change and Reform party, of vice-prime minister Samir Mokbel, of the Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros Raï, and several other political and religious figures. The participants emphasized that Eastern Christians are “the original offspring of this land, and will stay there, whatever the difficulties,” for “the region is doomed without its Christian population,” according to Dr. Fouad Abou Nader. The congress examined the important role of Christians and their indispensable social and economic contributions; the committee for action items will establish the exact situation of Christian populations and action plans to “influence the decision-making centres in the world and speak out on the issue of Christians in the East.”

(Sources: kipa-apic.ch/fides/rianov/aed/afp/lorj/le point – DICI no. 284, 08/11/13)

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