June 16, 2012 (TSR) –  “Peace in Syria could be saved if everyone told the truth. After a year of conflict, the reality on the ground is far from the picture that imposes disinformation in Western media”: says a testimony sent to Fides Agency by the French priest Philip Tournyol Clos, a greek-Catholic Melkite Archimandrite, who recently visited Syria, by traveling to different cities, like Damascus, Aleppo and Homs.


In Homs, called the “Martyred city”, “opposition forces have occupied two areas, Diwan Al Bustan and Hamidieh, where there are all the churches and bishoprics,” the Archimandrite told Fides. “The picture for us – he continues – is utter desolation: the church of Mar Elian is half destroyed and that of Our Lady of Peace is still occupied by the rebels. Christian homes are severely damaged due to the fighting and completely emptied of their inhabitants, who fled without taking anything. The area of Hamidieh is still shelter to armed groups independent of each other, heavily armed and bankrolled by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.


All Christians (138,000) have fled to Damascus and Lebanon, while others took refuge in the surrounding countryside. A priest was killed and another was wounded by three bullets. Still a couple live there, but the five bishops have had to take refuge in Damascus and Lebanon. “The Christian leader continues: “In the capital car bombs and assassinations on behalf of Islamist suicide bombers, drawn by the desire of heaven, that cradle the dream of the end of the Alawite regime are feared.


Currently the country, through the bloody work of adventurers who are not Syrian is trying to be destabilized. The former French ambassador, Eric Chevallier, reported this information, which was always rejected, while many details remain to be forged to keep the war against Syria,” denounced the Archimandrite to Fides. In Damascus in recent weeks, there were terrible attacks that ended with a toll: of 130 deaths (including 34 Christians), 400 injured and many houses damaged. “The consternation was general, indescribable pain,” notes the Archimandrite, recalling that “the Syrians are simple and playful people.”


As far as Christians are concerned the Bishop says: “Christians live in peace, sharing the sufferings of all, but they are ready to admit that they have never felt so free in the past and to remember the full recognition of their rights, given to them by this (Assad) government.”

Mgr. Philip Tournyol Clos says the key to Syrian Christian and Muslim leaders, who say: “The enemies of Syria have enlisted some of the Muslim Brotherhood in order to destroy the brotherly relations that traditionally existed between Muslims and Christians: Yet, to date,they are not able to: they have provoked a contrary reaction and the two communities are more united than before.”


The Syrian soldiers in fact, continue to face foreign fighters, mercenary Libyans, Lebanese militants from the Gulf, Afghans, Turks. “The Sunni Salafist militants – he added – continue to commit crimes against civilians, or to recruit fighters with force. The fanatical Sunni extremists are fighting a holy war proudly, especially against the Alawites. When terrorists seek to control the religious identity of a suspect, they ask him to cite the genealogies dating back to Moses. And they ask to recite a prayer that the Alawites removed. The Alawites have no chance to get out alive.”


The Greek-Catholic church of St. Elias in Qusayr, near the town of Homs, has been occupied by a group of gunmen of the Syrian opposition, that have established their base. As reported to Fides by eyewitnesses, on June 13, men, probably Islamic radicals stormed into the church, forcing the door, ringing bells and carrying out a demonstration of scorn that had raised concern among local Christian leaders. But the group, instead of leaving the building, camped inside the liturgical classroom and is now there permanently, carrying out all its activities. The local Church condemns the incident, defining such ” behavior unacceptable and disrespectful toward a sacred place,” as members of the hierarchy of the diocese of Homs report to Fides, they have also launched an appeal so that the current conflict “does not degenerate into the desecration of temples and sacred places, of all communities. ”

Fides sources confirm that – as many observers have been arguing for weeks – in the city of Qusayr, south of Homs, there are radical Islamic Salafi groups that “want to fight a war of religion.” In the meanwhile, the few Christians who had remained, mostly elderly people who did not want to leave their homes are escaping from Qusayr. At least a thousand faithful have fled in recent days after the ultimatum launched by an armed faction, which called on Christians to leave the city.


“Let us go, in God’s name!” Is a desperate appeal by Christian families and Sunni Muslims trapped in the old town of Homs. We are talking about 800 civilians, including women, elderly, youth, children, disabled people who today – refers one source of Fides engaged in negotiation attempts – “are in real danger. They have nothing, they live in panic, they are in the midst of bombing and fighting. “The families blocked in the city, said the source of Fides, launch an appeal “for humanitarian reasons”, asking the help of the UN, Red Cross, Red Crescent, so that their lives can be saved.

The families are located in areas of Warsheh, Salibi, Bustan Diwan, Ozon, Hamidiyeh, Wadi Sayeh, all in the heart of Homs. Currently, the Syrian army would be available for a cease-fire to release the civilians, but a faction of rebels holed up in the city, headed by leading Abu Maan, refuses to consent. The militia, in fact, fear that, once the civilians are outside, the Syrian army can strengthen its offensive towards the city center. The situation is still stalled, but the condition of families worsens by the hour. The approximately 400 Christians are the last remaining of the more than 80 thousand who lived in Homs before the conflict.

 Source: Agenza Fides


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