» 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.
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.
Christians in a divided country, after a year of revolt
With Iran delivering medical aid and Saudi Arabia and Qatar willing to arm the rebels, Syria appears to be breaking up. A witness to the events, a Catholic priest describes the situation of communal hatred and fear but also the action of Christians and Muslims, working together to help the victims. The country's Churches are divided between blind support for Assad and non-violent opposition in favour of the rule of law and a state where Christians and Muslims are equal before the law.
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Pope Francis tells young people that “genuine love” is not a “soap opera”, but Christians’ real identity card
In his homily for the Jubilee of Teens, Pope Francis asked questions and gave answers to the 70,000 present. Stressing the great ideal of love as giving oneself “without being possessive”, he noted that freedom is “being able to choose the good”. He warned young people “who dare not dream,” telling them that “If you do not dream at your age, you are already ready for retirement”. He also received funds raised for the Ukraine, and appealed for the release of bishops and the priests held in Syria.
Odd alliance between the US and Iranian fundamentalists
Washington is still preventing the use of US dollars in transactions with Iranian banks, preventing business with the outside world in spite of the nuclear deal. This way, the US is helping Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards, who want to torpedo the agreement in order to maintain their hold on power. Meanwhile, most Iranians hold down two or three jobs just to make ends meet. An unstable and bellicose Iran is a boon for arms sales. A report follows.
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