09/09/2013, 00.00
SYRIA

Maaloula: rebels break into the village homes, kill three young Christians

AsiaNews sources report anti-Christian violence and persecution in the village where people still speak Aramaic. Islamist insurgents have broken into homes and seized at least six young Greek-Catholics. Dead bodies are lying in the streets as a warning to the inhabitants. In Damascus, the local Church tries to help the refugees, but "many families have been stranded in their homes. Nothing is known about them."

Maaloula (AsiaNews) - The bodies of Christians killed lie abandoned by the side of roads; houses and churches have been destroyed and plundered," this is Maaloula today, a village about 60 kilometres north of Damascus that was recently invaded by Islamist insurgents.

The town, the cradle of the Syrian Christian tradition and a unique place in the world where Aramaic is still spoken, is now a ghost town.

Sources, anonymous for security reasons, told AsiaNews that "the Islamist insurgents are breaking into village homes. Yesterday they killed three people and took six young Greek-Catholics Christians prisoners. Bodies have been left in the streets as a warning to the population. Many families are locked in their homes and cannot even escape. Nobody knows their conditions."

The situation is critical for those who were able to leave the village. "Several hundred people," sources said, "managed to save themselves, but had to leave all their belongings. A new ordeal is starting for them."

In the capital, parishes gave hospitality to fleeing families, but the food will not last for long.

"These people are traumatised," sources told AsiaNews. "Entire families have left their entire lives in Maaloula. They do not need only material goods such as food, water, a bed to rest but also spiritual support, especially the elderly, women and children. "

The rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) invaded the village last Thursday, defeating government forces with the support of al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Brigades.

After taking control of the city, Islamists begun to desecrate Christian buildings, destroying the crosses on the dome of the Greek-Catholic monastery of Saints Sergius and Bacchus.

A villager told AsiaNews that the leader of the local Muslim community condemned the attack saying it was against Islam.

"Violence cannot be carried out either in the name of Allah or Muhammad," the sheikh said, to no avail. (S.C.)

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