» 06/12/2013, 00.00
United for reconciliation with Muslims, Christians return to al-Qusair
For months, the town's 3,000 Christians lived in neighbouring villages. The first families arrived in the city shortly after the ouster of Islamic extremists by the regime. Muslims themselves accuse the rebels of stirring sectarian hatred in Syria. Along with the shrine of St Elijah, the local mosque was destroyed as well.
Al-Qusair (AsiaNews) - After fleeing to surrounding villages and the
capital Damascus, Christians from al-Qusair are returning to their homes after
almost two years. Many have lost everything; some have started to remove rubble
from rooms and rebuild roofs, bringing life back to a city that in recent
months had lost more than 90 per cent of its population, going from 30,000
inhabitants to 500.
Sources told AsiaNews that in
2011 more than 3,000 Christians fled the city seeking refuge with relatives and
friends. In recent months, the only non-Muslim residents was elderly Catholic
couple, husband and wife. "The couple," they said, "did not know where to
run. Their only daughter is a Melkite nun, who resides abroad. They were helped
by their Muslim neighbours."
Media reports describe Syria as a place devastated by the conflict
between Shias and Sunnis, which has also affected Christians. However, for sources
the country was really devastated by outside forces, which have taken advantage
of the instability and peaceful uprisings of 2011 to pursue their political and
ideological agendas, which reached a peak with the intervention of Hizbollah,
the Lebanese Shia paramilitary movement, fighting alongside the Syrian army.
Located on the border with Lebanon, al-Qusair was one of the first
cities to organise pro-democracy demonstrations against the Assad regime and
later set up a national committee to prevent clashes between religious
"These committees," sources told AsiaNews, "saved several villages and towns, preserving them from the
wave of Islamic extremism that has been causing destruction in the past few
months in Aleppo and other towns in the country."
"In al-Qusair," they explain, "churches and mosques were built next
to each other." An example is the shrine of St Elijah, which was recently desecrated
by foreign Islamists, after surviving the fighting between local rebels and the
army, who have always respected places of worship.
The outrage caused by the al-Nusra militia, which has fighters from 15
nations in its ranks, has aroused the anger of the population.
"It's a big shock to see something like this in a church," Osama Hassan,
a Muslim and a government employee, told Reuters.
"For us, a church is the same as a mosque."
A nearby mosque was also heavily damaged, parts of its minaret blasted
away, he added.
For locals, Islamist fighters are to blame for sectarian divisions in
the population, which includes Sunni and Shiite Muslims, as well as Christians.
"Here, the Christian and Muslim cemeteries are right next to each
other," said one resident. "We never had divisions." (S.C.)
Massacres by Islamic extremists bolster Bashar al-Assad
Ignored for months by Western media, massacres by Islamist brigades have appeared on pro-rebel media with reports on summary executions, Islamic courts and the mass killing of Shias, justified in the name of the hatred against Assad. However, in al Qusair and Aleppo, residents have welcomed the return of the regular army.
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For Nuncio in Damascus, children's eyes are the mirror of the atrocities committed in Syria
Since August, areas under siege have not received any aid. UN official calls for a halt to Aleppo bombing. The image of a child rescued from the rubble is the image of the Syrian conflict. For Mgr Zenari, there is “no light at the end of the tunnel”. A deal on “humanitarian aid” is crucial.
Maaloula: Christians say announcement of withdrawal by Islamic rebels is false
A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army claim its forces evacuated the town in order to avoid bloodshed. Sources tell AsiaNews deny the report, saying terrorists are still entrenched in the town. With many residents are still holed up in their homes, Islamists are not letting anyone escape. In Damascus, hundreds of people attend the funerals of three young Catholics from Maaloula killed by Islamists.
Without dialogue Syria will become a new Iraq, Aleppo bishop says
Mgr Antoine Audo speaks about the recent attacks that left 28 people dead in his city, including two Christians. The prelate notes the spirit of solidarity between Christians and Muslims, united despite a climate of hatred and violence. He calls on the international community to favour dialogue among the various factions rather than a spirit of vengeance. The Arab League calls for the deployment of United Nations troops to stop fighting between Syrian forces and rebels. Pope made an appeal on Sunday.
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For Caritas, Syria has become a football field where big powers use the innocent as a ball
Fighters are destroying infrastructure, factories and buildings with their "big shoes". Displaced people, food shortages, education, migration, abandoned seniors and children playing at war are the consequences of the conflict. More than aid, people just want peace. The spokeswoman of the Catholic charity sends a letter for International Day of Peace.
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul": A Christmas gift to survive winter
As Iraqi troops advance in the Nineveh Plain and Mosul, a new wave of refugees could overshadow the fate of other refugees who found hospitality in Kurdistan. People need kerosene, winter clothes, aid for children, and money for rent. The campaign AsiaNews launched two years ago is more urgent than ever. Give up a superfluous gift to offer refugees an essential gift for life.
Pastor of Amadiya: Mosul’s Christian refugees, torn between emergency aid and the longing to return home
P. Samir Youssef
In a letter Fr. Samir Youssef describes the situation of refugees, exiled from their home for more than two years. They are closely following the offensive to retake Mosul, although their homes and churches "are for the most part" burned or destroyed. With the arrival of winter there is a serve lack of heating oil, clothes, food and money to pay for their children’s school bus. An appeal to continue to support the AsiaNews campaign.
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