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Battle for Syria

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Ethnic Cleansing of Christian Communities led by Al-Qaeda in Syria

March 21st 2012

Syria and Christian art

While the Syrian opposition forces have been guilty of violence, abuse, torture - as stated in a report released by Human Rights Watch - in Homs there is "an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians", carried out by members of the "Brigade Faruq", which has been linked to Al Qaeda. This is according to sources in the Syrian Orthodox Church, which represents 60 percent of Christians in Syria.

Militant armed Islamists - says the sources - have managed to expel 90 percent of Christians from Homs and confiscated their homes by force. According to the sources within the Syrian Orthodox Church, the militants went door to door in the neighborhoods of Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan, forcing Christians to flee, without giving them the chance to take their belongings. The "Faruq Brigade" is run by armed elements of Al-Qaeda and various Wahhabi groups and includes mercenaries from Libya and Iraq.

The Vatican representative at Aleppo, Apostolic Vicar Monsignor Giuseppe Nazzaro told the Fides news service, "We have no sources to confirm this information directly, but we can say that these relationships are beginning to break down the wall of silence built up to now by the press worldwide. In this situation Islamist and terrorist movements are making headway".

Msgr. Nazzaro recalled that on March 18, a car bomb exploded in Aleppo packed with TNT in the vicinity of a school operated by Franciscan friars. The Franciscans attributed the survival of the children under their care to a miracle. Sensing danger near the Church of St. Bonaventure where they were teaching, the Franciscans released the children from class 15 minutes prior to the usual time. As other bombs have exploded in Damascus, Msgr. Nazzaro avered "...these are bad signs for religious minorities."

On the prospects of peace arising from the current situation, the Vicar saids, "I am confident that peace can return: for this we Christians count on constant praying."

Meanwhile, in Homs, Catholic priests and religious of the Jesuit order have decided to stay in the city to provide comfort and humanitarian assistance to people in need, fulfilling their mission as "bridge builders" between cultures and religions. The Jesuits say they are inspired to inculcate tolerance, cultural and religious pluralism, while calling for dialogue and respect for human dignity and Gospel values. The Jesuits in Syria are engaged in interfaith dialogue, education and rural development projects.

Martin Barillas also edits Speroforum.com

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