A Tragedy on the Feast of the Dormition

Killing of Christians in the Village of Marmarita (17/08/2013)

Dormition of the Theotokos - Icon courtesy of www.eikonografos.com. Click on the image to visit eikonografos.
Dormition of the Theotokos - Icon courtesy of www.eikonografos.com. Click on the image to visit eikonografos.

The following article is an amended version of a personal account given on the “Syria is My Home” Facebook page recounting the tragic murder of Christians in the village of Marmarita, Homs Province, Syria in which 11 were killed including civilians and local protection militia with others injured.


Every year the small Christian village of Marmarita, Syria celebrates “Eid al Sadie”. This can be translated as “The Feast of Mother Mary,” known as the Dormition of the Theotokos in the Orthodox Church this holiday equates to the Feast of the Assumption in the Western Christian Church.  Usually there are parties scheduled, with orchestras and singers, tables set up outside of homes and hotels, great food and lots of dancing completes the yearly scene. Recently, in the very early hours of Saturday August 17, 2013 radical Islamic terrorists massacred some of those celebrating. Marmarita is located in the important historical area called Wadi al-Nasra “The Valley of the Christians”.

This area is in the vicinity of the 6th century Deir Mar Jurgos, which can be translated into English as “St. George’s Monastery”. St. George is one of the great Christian Saints, and he was Syrian. The patron Saint of England is Saint George, the Syrian. The name George is not English, or European, it is Syrian.

Syrian Christians in Valley Besieged by Islamic Militia (15/12/2012)


About 150,000 Christians are living in fear in western Syria, in a valley that has been subjected to steady artillery fire by Islamic rebels, the Fides news service reports.


The rebels have been shelling Syrian government forces, which have built barricades in the villages of the Wadi al Nasara, a traditionally Christian region. Families in the 40 villages of the valley—where the population has been increased by the arrival of Christian refugees from Homs and other cities—have seen their homes destroyed by the gunfire, and at least 12 people have been killed.


The Christian residents of the valley, who are mostly Greek Orthodox, emphasize that they are neutral in the Syrian civil war. They have asked rebels to respect their neutrality, and avoid civilian casualties—requests that, to date, have gone unheeded. Original article here


Update 26/08/2013: The population of the valley has increased to aprox 250,000 due to the number of displaced Christians seeking refuge. Source here in Arabic

The party goers were attending a party at the Hotel Wadi, located at Marmarita. The Syrian Security Forces arrived to caution all those present that they should take shelter inside the Hotel, as a nearby check point had been overrun by radical Islamic terrorists. Word reached several young men in the hotel that a young lady, Maya Barcheni, was in trouble and needed medical attention immediately. Those two heroes decided to leave the Hotel by car with the young lady to drive to a nearby medical clinic. In route, the terrorists saw the car and sprayed the car with machine gun fire. They were all killed. Bob Saade was one of the heroes killed.


Some people in cars had felt they could out run the terrorists and make it home safely. They also were all killed by machine gun fire directed at personal cars. These terrorists were not targeting Security Forces, or Police, or Army. They were targeting innocent civilians, of the Christian minority. This was a massacre. Local residents who were among the Home Defense Forces tried to defend their homes and families. They also were killed and injured. Many of the dead were members of the Syrian Socialist National Party.

The late Maya Barcheni and Bob Saade. Click to enlarge.
The late Maya Barcheni and Bob Saade. Click to enlarge.
The Vehicle in which three villagers lost their lives. Click to enlarge.
The Vehicle in which three villagers lost their lives. Click to enlarge.

At one point, the main road leading in and out of Marmarita was occupied by pick-up trucks with heavy artillery guns on swivel turrets, and motorcycle riding terrorists equipped with sophisticated machine guns. Anyone, or anything that moved got shot.


These radical Islamic terrorists had attacked a Syrian Army check point not far from Marmarita, and then proceeded in their sectarian mission to kill and maim Christians. These terrorists were not all Syrians themselves, but from various Arab and Western nations. Identification papers on the dead bodies revealed various foreigners fighting in Syria in order to establish a Radical Islamic state. It is still a mystery as to why the United States of America, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Turkey and the Gulf Arab States would support, fund and promote these blood thirsty barbarians. Perhaps one day these same terrorists, with their long beards and evil deeds will be killing people all over London and Washington, DC. We here in Syria will not be defeated. We will remain a country proud of having 18 different religious sects all saluting the same flag: Red, White, Black and two Green stars forever.


A visual tribute to some of those who lost their lives on the night of August 17th in the village of Marmarita
A visual tribute by activists on social media to some of those who lost their lives on the night of August 17th in the village of Marmarita, Homs Province, Syria. Click to enlarge.


Terrorist group Jund al Sham claim responsibility for the atrocity at Marmarita village.

Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist group Jund al Sham (Soldiers of the Levant), seen on the right, have claimed responsibility for the atrocity committed at the village of Marmarita on August 17th. This terrorist group occupy the Krak des Chevaliers castle, seen on the left of the above image. It is a castle fortress that overlooks the strategic Homs Gap in Syria’s Al Ansariyah Mountains and dominates the sensitive Christian region of Wadi al Nasara.


The castle was built in the 11th century by the Muslim emir of Aleppo and was later rebuilt by the Crusaders, it is a designated UNESCO world heritage site. Background information here regarding the Jund al Sham


A Terrorist Attack on a Bus in the Wadi al Nasara (12/08/2013)

Seven year old Lyn Nabil Al-Hams who died as the result of a terrorist attack on the bus in which she was traveling. Click to enlarge.
Seven year old Lyn Nabil Al-Hams who died as the result of a terrorist attack on the bus in which she was traveling. Click to enlarge.

Just days before the terrorist attack on Marmarita the locality sustained another tragic death at the hands of the terrorists when a roadside bomb was detonated as a local bus was passing by on the al Nasara - al Ajouz road in Wadi Al-Nasara. The attack injured 8 people including two children one of whom, seven year old Lyn Nabil Al-Hams, died later of her injuries.  Short article here.


German Report: Syria's Christians Fear Anti-Govt Militants and Put Hope on Syrian Army

Short video report from AFP Germany with English subtitles, featuring the family of one of the victims of the attack on Marmarita village.

Looking Back on the Valley in Happier Times

Syria’s Christian Valley by Sean Sprague (Article)

In the January 2011 edition of ONE magazine, a publication of the CNEWA (Catholic Near East Welfare Association), Sean Sprague tells the story of a flourishing valley of Syrian Christians holding onto its ancient roots.


The author brings to life the love and affection with which this district is held by both the residents and its large expatriate community. The normality of life as recounted in this article just months before the outbreak of conflict serves as a chilling reminder of how quickly life has changed in this green valley.


“In other countries of the regions, especially Iraq and Egypt, life has become intolerable for Christians and sometimes we worry what the future might bring,”.....“Life here in Syria is very sweet!”


Read the article here.


A Journey through Wadi al-Nasarah (Video)

In this photo taken in 2010, a farmer rides through Wadi al Nasarah (Arabic for Valley of Christians), near Homs. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In this photo taken in 2010, a farmer rides through Wadi al Nasarah (Arabic for Valley of Christians), near Homs. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Happier times recalled in the Valley of the Christians with a short two minute video of Wadi al Nasara from the CNEWA (Catholic Near East Welfare Association). View video here


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Petition to Journalists asking for responsible and accountable reporting on Syria. Please sign

H.E. The Sunni Grand Mufti of Syria, Sheikh Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun - I am the Mufti of all Syrians – Sunni Muslims, Christians, Alawites, Druze – of all the diversity of sects we had before the war. There is no choice other than reconciliation."

H.B. John X Yazigi, Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch -

The Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch in Syria, John Yazigi, says Syrian Christians "will not submit and yield" to foreign-backed extremist militants who attack "our people and holy places."

H.E. Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, Sunni Grand Mufti of Lebanon - “Christians’ fears nowadays over their presence and their dignity in the Middle East are right and justified”

H.B Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch - The West and other countries are helping to foment conflict in the Middle East "there is a plan to destroy the Arab world for political and economic interests"

H.E Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan, Deputy President of the Higher Shiite Council Lebanon - Called on the U.S to “work on giving people their freedom in Syria by refraining from supporting radical Islamists and criminals who are killing innocent people and violating their freedoms.

 H.B. Gregorios III Laham, Melkite greek-Catholic Patriarch of Antioch - "Every day Islamic extremists from all over the world are pouring into Syria with the sole intent to kill and not one country has done anything to stop them."

H.H. Mor Ignatios Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (R.I.P.) - "Syrians are the only ones who will decide their destiny, and that decision will be taken in Damascus, not in a European country."

H.H. Mor Ignatius Ephrem II Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch -  “Christians and Muslims alike are exposed to a terrorist war in the region”.... the Patriarch denounced the silence of the world regarding crimes committed by armed terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.

H.B. Youssef III Younan,  Syriac Catholic Patriarchs of Antioch - "We Syrian Christians, sold by the West for oil” - "Christians in the Middle East have not only been abandoned, but we have been lied to and betrayed by Western nations, like the United States and the European Union."

H.B. Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, “Who appointed them [United States] as ‘policemen of democracy’ in the Middle East? ”

H.E. Maroun Laham, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan  - “This interest, on the part of the United States or of Europe, for human rights or for the defence of the weak, no one believes. No one believes it!,”

H.E. Jacques Behnan Hindo,  Syriac Catholic Archbishop ofHassaké-Nisibi (northeastern Syria) - Regarding the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabuis “Please excuse my expression. They are screwing all Syrians

H.E. Theodosius Hanna, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia (Nablus, Palestine) - "Will the displacement of Christians from Syria, their killing and slaughter and the destruction of their churches lead to an alleged democracy?"

Rev. Georges Massouh Antiochian Orthodox priest and director of the Christian Muslim Studies Center at Balamand University, Lebanon. "It goes without saying that Christians in Syria do not consider themselves greater or more important that their Muslim partners in the one nation. They find themselves in solidarity with all the people of Syria, in the calamities that they share and the strikes that fall upon all their heads."