Metropolitan Philip Saliba,
Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America
Antiochian Orthodox Church
Information for this article sourced from various media and other testimony.
On Wednesday last the 4th of September Western backed terrorists attacked the world famous Christian town of Maaloula, Syria. Maaloula a UNESCO world heritage site is one of only 3 remaining locations in which Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken today. Throughout the course of the current conflict in Syria the town of Maaloula had resisted attempts to be drawn into the conflict as its Christian and Muslim population remained steadfast in their resolve to remain unified and a place of peace refusing conflict. Sadly on the morning of the 4th September at around 6 a.m. the town against its will was submerged into violence by an attack from terrorist rebels principally drawn from the ranks of the al-Qaeda Jhabat al Nushra faction.
terrorist suicide bomber attacked the army checkpoint on the outskirts of the town killing 12 soldiers.
Rebels subsequently attacked members of the local protection militia and succeeded in overrunning the centre of the town. Some reports say that on the morning of the attack loudspeakers bleared over the town a call by rebels for the townspeople to convert to Islam. During the first wave of attack as many as 100 villagers fled to the ancient Convent of St. Tekla to find refuge with the nuns and the 27 orphans cared for at the convent. The walls of the convent were struck by at least 2 shell fired by the terrorists. By Friday evening Syrian army reinforcement managed to drive out most of the rebel terrorists, but rebels continued to use the cliff top Safir hotel, which overlooks the village, as a vantage point to continue its shelling and fire on the town. Rebels also fired on the outlying ancient monastery of Mar Sarkis (St. Sergius) causing structural damage. By Saturday evening the rebels had retaken control due in part to the army’s hesitation in using heavy force within the world heritage site. By Saturday the estimated number of dead was 25 from the army and twenty dead civilians as well as casualties and reports on several kidnappings. All but some 50 of the 3,300 villagers have fled, a resident who left the area in the past days said.
Some estimates say that as many as 2000 terrorists have came back into the town joined by a further 1000 from neighbouring cities, the presence of 12 vehicle mounted Dushka heavy artillery guns were also noted.
Rev. Mother Pelagia Sayaf of St Tekla’s Convent appeared in a video filmed by the terrorists saying they were well-treated by the rebels. “They behaved well with us and they did not harm us,” one said at the rebels’ prompting. Shelling and gun fire can be heard outside the building. Arabic only.
Update: We now know that this interview with Rev. Mother Bellegia Shayaf and another nun at the convent was obtained under duress as the rebels had threatened to blow the convent door open if the nuns did not open the door for them to enter.
A former resident of Maaloula, an historic Christian town to the north of Damascus, has told the BBC her family was forced to leave their home after it was captured by rebels at the weekend.
The funeral, in Damascus, of three cousins, Anton, Mikhail, and Sarkis killed by terrorists in Maaloula.
Melkite Catholic Patriarch, Gregorios III Laham speaks with Vatican Radio from Damascus regarding the attack on Maaloula by the Jabhat al-Nusra -al-Qaeda and others. Click here to listen
This interview was filmed in the aftermath of the attack on Maaloula
Published on Sep 9, 2013 (poor sound quality edited text below)
His Beatitude Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, speaks to Fox News Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent Greg Palkot about the plight of
Syria's Christians and urges the American people to oppose US military intervention and instead lobby for peace.
1) "The situation of Christians is also that of all people in many parts of Syria...we have about 450,000 Christians who are displaced - inside Syria or outside Syria."
2) When asked if Christians specifically being targeted, he said: "Well...yes, and no. I can say it like that. Muslims, our people, our citizens, who are with us for years and years and centuries, are not targeting or doing any harm to us. Our problem is the people WHO ARE NOT SYRIAN, and the very extremist groups - salafists and fundamentalists, coming from abroad making this trouble and chaos."
3) "The most vulnerable group and part of the Syrian population are the Christians - they are few, they are without arms, so they are also put as an instrument between groups here and there. Any escalation of the situation now is, first and foremost, the biggest danger for the Christians."
4) "I would now like to address in a very special way my dear brothers and sisters, Christians in the USA: If you'd like to preserve a Christian presence as it was for 2,000 years, we are here. If you'd like us to go out, continue and do a strike. If you'd like Christians to stay, please make peace. I beg the Congress people and the Christians in the USA, please - we are your sisters and brothers, we can keep the real heritage of Christianity in its very birthplace - Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon are holy places where Christianity was born. If you'd like to have more killing and more victims, we are the first to be killed."
5) "All our Patriarchs, my brothers, and all the Bishop Conferences in the world are against any attack, any new strike from any side, especially from the USA against Syria. It can't be limited. Excuse me, but it is impossible to have a limited strike. A strike is a strike and you will see in [Christianity's] birthplace, Christians leaving the country. And it will be sad to write in history that America, the country that is working and fighting for liberty from its [early] history, is now put in history as those who finished the Christian presence in the Middle East. We pray that this will not happen."
6) "The Holy Father gave the answer: violence cannot still violence. War cannot end war. And weapons cannot end weapons. You know, weapons can come from heaven, from every place. So it is foolish - excuse me to say - it is barbaric, now in this century, to think that you can win with war and with weapons. Therefore I appeal to America, with big love, with big trust: go all of you - Americans and Europeans - to Geneva 2. All of you know who are the bandits, and who is the Opposition."
7) "We have no problem with the Opposition. They are Syrians. BUT THE OTHERS ARE NOT SYRIANS and are not Opposition. Therefore I ask the USA, please don't strike. Please do not be war-makers, I hope you will be peacemakers."
8) When asked if he'd send that message to Bashar Assad as well, he said: "All hands are full of blood. Today is not the time to ask, "who is responsible!?" It is time to finish. Like Solomon said, there is a time for war and a time for peace. It is too late to ask who is responsible. Therefore I ask America to make peace and not to make war."