Beirut (AsiaNews) - The battle between rebels and army for al-Qusair left the town in ruin, now reduced to a pile of rubble. Of the 30,000 residents, including some 3,000 Christians, who lived there before the start of the Civil War, only 500 are left. Images broadcast by the BBC show deserted streets, most residential and public buildings destroyed by mortar fire, or turned into weapons depots by anti-Assad militias, who occupied the town for over a year.
The siege did not spare mosques and churches that for centuries stood side by side, an example of peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians.
Several Orthodox and Catholics Christian buildings were desecrated by Islamist rebels, as several witnesses testified, including the BBC's Lyse Doucet, the first foreign journalist to enter in Al-Qusair.
In a report, the British correspondent describes the state of neglect of the Greek Catholic sanctuary of St Elijah, symbol of the local Christian community. In recent months, the rebels vented their rage at the building, riddled with artillery shells.
On the floor, dozens of religious objects lay, scattered. On the walls, a few icons and statues are still hanging, but most of them are defaced and slashed, a sign of wanton, not accidental destruction.
Interviewed by AsiaNews, Fr Simon Faddoul, president of Caritas Lebanon, said that for over a year there were no news about the Christian community of Al-Qusair.
"Most of them," he said, "fled when the city fell into the hands of the rebels in 2012. Unlike Muslims, many Christians have crossed the border with Lebanon. Most of the families however preferred to seek refuge in other cities or villages. " (S.C.)