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    » 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 factions.

    "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.)

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    See also

    17/06/2013 SYRIA
    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.

    19/08/2016 16:45:00 SYRIA
    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.

    11/09/2013 SYRIA
    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.

    13/02/2012 SYRIA
    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.

    21/09/2016 16:21:00 SYRIA
    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.

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