Wed

30

Apr

2014

More Crucifixions in Raqqa

Two of those crucified were Christians

The estranged al-Qaeda group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Sham) have again held public executions in the city of Raqqa. In this latest atrocity between 7 and10 people were executed and crucified.  The News outlet ANNA (Abkhazian Network News Agency) reported that two of those crucified were Christians. The victims were accused of being part of a cell involved in actions against the terrorist group ISIS. These are not the first Saudi style crucifixions to be perpetrated by ISIS.

Above images via the German language blog urs1798.wordpress.com

Christian village of Harb in Suwayda province attacked.

Christian village of Harb in Suwayda province attacked, located 8 km from the town of Busra al-Sham. Two days ago (27/04/2014) a group of armed Islamists attacked the unprotected village which does not even have a self-defence detachment. According to some reports, some civilians have been killed the terrorists. Only those who had the time to flee to neighbouring towns survived. Home of residents were looted and destroyed. Source ANNA (Abkhazian Network News Agency)


192 Comments

Wed

30

Apr

2014

Keep The War Away From Us

Keep the war away from us" Syria's school Children in their own words.

In an initiative organised by Syrian Member of Parliament Mrs. Maria Saadeh and held at the Damascus Opera House in late December 2013, some Syrian school children are afforded the opportunity to express how they feel about the conflict in their country.

“What is happening in Syria is not a war between Syrians”

An Extract of some comments made the Syrian Christian M.P. Maria Saadeh in an interview with the Italian news outlet ilsussidiario.net

 

“All of these groups, terrorists, and Salafi jihadists are hiding behind Islam, while not knowing anything about its real meaning. They are especially supported by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, as well as some Western powers......What is happening in Syria is not a war between Syrians, but an international conflict that is intertwined with other issues such as Iran, Ukraine and the relations between Russia and the United States.” Full article in Italian here

 

Left:  Syrian M.P. Maria Saadeh, the superior of St. Tekla’s Antiochian Orthodox Convent Maaloula, Rev. Mother Pelagia Sayyaf and Cardianl Rai, The Maronite Catholic Patriarch. Damascus Feb. 2013

Terrorists’ mortars claim 14 civilians, mostly students, in Damascus

Terrorists' mortars continued to rain down on Damascus as four rounds hit al-Shaghour neighborhood, two of which smashed into Badr-Eddin al-Hasani Institute for Islamic Sharia Sciences, killing 14 civilians, a Police Command source told SANA. 86 others, mostly students, were reported wounded in the attack. Source SANA Syrian state news agency



27 Comments

Mon

28

Apr

2014

Armenian Catholic Archbishop Marayati: Aleppo again in the grip of war

Article from the Vatican's Pontifical Missions news service, Fides

The aftermath of the recent bombing in Aleppo
The aftermath of the recent bombing in Aleppo

In recent days attacks, incursions by rebels and operations of military retaliation in the Syrian city of Aleppo have intensified. An escalation which on Sunday 27 April devastated again even the central districts and the Old Town, where the rebels are trying to advance. This was confirmed to Fides Agency by the Armenian Catholic Archbishop Boutros Marayati: "The biggest explosion" refers Metropolitan Marayati "was against the local government headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce, which was once one of the driving forces of the economic dynamism. The explosive device was placed to hit the building and stones and debris were thrown at a great distance. The effect was also strongly felt in our neighborhoods, terrorizing everyone. It looked like an earthquake".

 

At least 21 civilians were killed in the last hour by mortars fired by the rebels against the districts of Aleppo, controlled by the government army. In response, the military units loyal to Assad have stepped up operations in areas controlled by the insurgents to stop their infiltration in rural and urban areas under the control of the regime.

 

Meanwhile, Kurdish sources reported news of an agreement between Islamist anti-Assad factions and Kurdish militias for self-defense that might affect the developments of the conflict in many areas of northern Syria. The Islamist Ahl al-Sham alliance - which includes Islamist groups such as the Islamic Front and Jabhat al-Nusra-Front - has signed a temporary truce with the Kurdish militias of the People's Protection Units (YPG) in Aleppo city and rural areas around the metropolis. The Islamists have committed themselves to limiting the siege to areas in the hands of government troops. The two entities that have signed the agreement will be able to use the roads through checkpoints controlled by the other party, with the approval of the military leadership.


The agreement represents a change of scenery compared to the past, in many situations marked by violent clashes between Islamist factions and Kurdish militias. Original here


6 Comments

Sat

26

Apr

2014

On the Occasion of the Canonisation of Pope John Paul II

"How can I forget the magnificent contribution of Syria and the surrounding region to the history of Christianity?" John Paul II

Pope John Paul II – Address at Airport in Damascus, Syria – 6 May 2001

Mr President, Members of the Government, Brother Patriarchs and Bishops, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

1. As I arrive in Damascus, this “pearl of the East”, I am deeply aware that I am visiting a very ancient land, which has played a vital role in the history of this part of the world. Syria’s literary, artistic and social contribution to the flourishing of culture and civilization is renowned. I am most grateful to you, Mr President, and to the Members of the Government, for making my visit to Syria possible, and I thank you for your kind words of welcome. I greet the civil, political and military Authorities graciously present, as well as the distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps.

 

I come as a pilgrim of faith, continuing my Jubilee Pilgrimage to some of the places especially connected with God’s self-revelation and his saving actions (cf. Letter Concerning Pilgrimage to the Places Linked to the History of Salvation,

 

Today he allows me to continue this pilgrimage here, in Syria, in Damascus, and to greet all of you in friendship and brotherhood. I greet the Patriarchs and Bishops who are here, representing the Syrian Christian community. My heartfelt greeting goes to all the followers of Islam who live in this noble land. Peace be with you all! As-salámù ‘aláikum!

 

2. My Jubilee Pilgrimage marking the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ actually began last year, with the commemoration of Abraham, to whom God’s call came not far from here in the region of Haran. Later, I was able to travel to Mount Sinai, where the Ten Commandments were given to Moses. And then there was my unforgettable visit to the Holy Land, where Jesus fulfilled his saving mission and founded his Church. Now my mind and heart turn to the figure of Saul of Tarsus, the great Apostle Paul, whose life was changed for ever on the road to Damascus. My ministry as Bishop of Rome is linked in a special way to the witness of Saint Paul, a witness crowned by his martyrdom in Rome.

 

3. How can I forget the magnificent contribution of Syria and the surrounding region to the history of Christianity? From the very beginning of Christianity, flourishing communities were to be found here. In the Syrian desert Christian monasticism flourished; and the names of Syrians such as Saint Ephraem and Saint John Damascene are etched for ever in Christian memory. Some of my predecessors were born in this area.

 

I am thinking too of the great cultural influence of Syrian Islam, which under the Umayyad Caliphs reached the farthest shores of the Mediterranean. Today, in a world that is increasingly complex and interdependent, there is a need for a new spirit of dialogue and cooperation between Christians and Muslims. Together we acknowledge the one indivisible God, the Creator of all that exists. Together we must proclaim to the world that the name of the one God is “a name of peace and a summons to peace” (Novo millennio ineunte, 55)!

 

4. As the word “peace” echoes in our hearts, how can we not think of the tensions and conflicts which have long troubled the region of the Middle East? So often hopes for peace have been raised, only to be dashed by new waves of violence. You, Mr President, have wisely confirmed that a just and global peace is in the best interests of Syria. I am confident that under your guidance Syria will spare no effort to work for greater harmony and cooperation among the peoples of the region, in order to bring lasting benefits not only to your own land, but also to other Arab countries and the whole international community. As I have publicly stated on other occasions, it is time to “return to the principles of international legality: the banning of the acquisition of territory by force, the right of peoples to self-determination, respect for the resolutions of the United Nations Organization and the Geneva conventions, to quote only the most important” (Speech to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 13 January 2001, No. 3).

 

We all know that real peace can only be achieved if there is a new attitude of understanding and respect between the peoples of the region, between the followers of the three Abrahamic religions. Step by step, with vision and courage, the political and religious leaders of the region must create the conditions for the development that their peoples have a right to, after so much conflict and suffering. Among these conditions, it is important that there be an evolution in the way the peoples of the region see one another, and that at every level of society the principles of peaceful coexistence be taught and promoted. In this sense, my pilgrimage is also an ardent prayer of hope: hope that among the peoples of the region fear will turn to trust; and contempt to mutual esteem; that force will give way to dialogue; and that a genuine desire to serve the common good will prevail.

5. Mr President, the gracious invitation which you and the Government and people of Syria have extended to me, and the warmth of your welcome here today, are signs of our shared belief that peace and cooperation are indeed our common aspiration. I deeply appreciate your hospitality, so characteristic of this ancient and blessed land. May Almighty God grant you happiness and long life! May he bless Syria with prosperity and peace! As-salámu ‘aláikum!

 

Reproduced from the Australians for Reconciliation in Syria blog


67 Comments

Thu

24

Apr

2014

INTERNATIONAL PEACE PILGRIMAGE TO SYRIA VIA IRAN

REPORT FROM: NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE MAIREAD MAGUIRE PEACE PEOPLE, NORTHERN IRELAND. (24.04.2014)

Ann Patterson and I were honoured to participate in the International Peace Pilgrimage to Syria via Iran, from 5th - 14th April, 2014. During an international delegation to Syria last year, we had both promised to return to Syria, and we also fulfilled a long-held intention to visit Iran.

 

IRAN

 

We arrived in Iran on 5th April, and joined an international delegation of 14 from Lebanon, Australia, Canada, Pakistan, the UK and Germany.   We were invited by the Unified Union of Unified Ummah’s, who organized this peace and humanitarian mission via Iran.  Although Iranians are themselves suffering economic duress from some of the same nations oppressing Syria, they choose to show solidarity with Syria by sending large amounts of aid, purchased with the individual contributions of thousands of caring Iranian citizens.  

We spent four wonderful days in Iran, where we visited Tehran, (for the main meetings and conference), Isfahan (a centre for Iranian and Armenian Christians), and Qom (a religious centre for Shia Muslims, where we met with Shia scholars). There was also a major event at Tehran University, where we spoke to students, and children sang and presented toys, including their own, for Syrian children.  We also met with the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament and other political representatives.

Ann Patterson, Mairead Maguire and Mother Agnes Mariam meeting with Iranian peace activists
Ann Patterson, Mairead Maguire and Mother Agnes Mariam meeting with Iranian peace activists

I was deeply moved by the warmth and friendliness of the Iranian people, and was particularly impressed with the youth.  We asked some women students about their hope for the future of their country and they replied that they feared an attack by the US or NATO, but hoped otherwise.  We found this sad, as these young people are eager to travel and make friends in other countries, like most young people.

 

On the occasion of the Peace Pilgrimage Muslim and Christian clerics pray together in the Vank (monastery) Armenian Cathedral in Isfahan, Iran
On the occasion of the Peace Pilgrimage Muslim and Christian clerics pray together in the Vank (monastery) Armenian Cathedral in Isfahan, Iran

The cities we visited were modern, and the Islamic architecture magnificent, as was the Armenian church.  I would encourage people to visit Iran to meet its people and experience its beauty. Indeed I believe this is the only way to peace – people to people and country to country.    Foreign women are encouraged to wear the headscarf, out of respect for Iran’s tradition. 

 

During our visit we also met with an Iranian friend, who shared her story of imprisonment and abuse, due to her human rights advocacy.  There is no doubt Iran needs to show greater respect for human rights, but many said that it is moving in the right direction. 

 

It was a great inspiration to visit Iran, and I look forward to visiting again in the future.  I would like to extend our deepest thanks for our Iranian friends for their wonderful hospitality during our visit to their country.

Mairead Maguire speaking with family of the missing.
Mairead Maguire speaking with family of the missing.

FROM IRAN TO SYRIA

 

On 10th April, forty people, including 24 of the most highly respected and well-known cultural and religious Iranian leaders, together with 16 internationals, flew from Tehran to Damascus.  We brought medical aid (co-ordinated by Iranian Red Crescent) and also toys and other gifts, all collected with donations from people of Iran and the international visitors.

 

We were welcomed in Damascus by Dr. Ahmed Khaddour, Mother Agnes Mariam, the Mussalaha organization, Dr. Declan Hayes, and Mohamed Quraish. I would take this opportunity to thank them for their central role in conceiving this project and bringing it to fruition.  Other pilgrims joined us from Lebanon, the US, Canada, and other locations.

 

During the next four days our delegation visited the Great Mosque, Chapel of St. Paul, the Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque, (in the words of the Iranian Imam, ‘a dream come true for Iranian pilgrims’).  It was a great privilege to join and pray with our Muslim and Christian friends.

Mairead Maguire and other members of the delegation in Homs with Mother Agnes Mariam and Fr. Michael Noman of the Mussalaha Reconciliation Initiative. In Homs the delegation heard more about the unspeakable crimes committed by rebels.
Mairead Maguire and other members of the delegation in Homs with Mother Agnes Mariam and Fr. Michael Noman of the Mussalaha Reconciliation Initiative. In Homs the delegation heard more about the unspeakable crimes committed by rebels.

Our delegation also travelled to Latakia and Homs. We saw the damage and spoke to Syrians who were unable to live in their homes and have suffered unspeakable crimes committed by rebels against them. Outside our hotel in Damascus we heard two large explosions that killed a soldier and three civilians in two cars.  They were the result of random mortar attacks that plague a city otherwise apparently under control of government forces. Even the wife of the ex-president was killed in her home by such an attack whilst she was cooking breakfast.

 

In Latakia, Governor Abdel-Qader told us that the Syrian people are facing with steadfastness an international plot against their country.  He pointed to thousands of Jabhat al-Nusrah fighters that swarmed across the Turkish border on March 21, 2014, with Turkish military support to attack Christian Armenian Syrians north of Latakia. Eyewitnesses reported that 50-90 residents were massacred, others taken into Turkey against their will, and a large number sent in flight to Latakia. We visited some of these refugees, who were staying in an Armenian Church.

Peace Pilgrimage delegate Foroz Rajaei Far, Iranian activist among Syrian girls
Peace Pilgrimage delegate Foroz Rajaei Far, Iranian activist among Syrian girls

We also visited refugees from Haram, near Idlib, Syria.  They told us how over a year ago hundreds of foreign fighters had crossed from the nearby Turkish border, kidnapped over 300 people and brutally killed another 150.  Many had fled and were afraid to return to their area, seeking instead to live in as refugees in Latakia. They also reported that Jabhat al-Nusrah fighters received support from the Turkish military, and launched cross border artillery, tank fire and missile attacks against not only Syrian Army positions but at the civilian population of Latakia. (Some Syrians told us that Turkey has evolved into a major military operational base for a NATO backed invasion of Syria.)   

 

In Latakia we met with Lilly Martin, an American immigrant to Syria who has lived there permanently for 24 years.  She told us that missiles are fired daily into Latakia from Turkish territory, upon the civilian community, and often killing many people on the streets of the city.  She said that Syria was “neither in civil nor sectarian war” and that the crisis that began in March, 2011 in Deraa, Syria, was not a popular uprising, or a revolution but rather a foreign funded and foreign planned attack on the Syrian government and its civilian population, for the express purpose of regime change.  When asked, “What do you see as the solution for Syria, and whom do you want to hear this message?” Martin replied, “The solution to the crisis in Syria will come when the United States of America will make a public political decision to stop aiding and supporting terrorism, and specifically the Al Qaeda terrorists and their affiliates who are killing Syrians daily.  I want President Obama to hear my message and the message of the Peace Pilgrimage to Syria, April 2014.”  

Mohmmad Reza Zarei, an Iranian cleric and cultural activist meeting with displaced Syrians.
Mohmmad Reza Zarei, an Iranian cleric and cultural activist meeting with displaced Syrians.

In Homs, where the Musalaha movement began with Mother Agnes Mariam as one of its leaders, and where its members continue to work for peace and reconciliation, we met a group of ex-fighters who have accepted the Syrian government offer of amnesty (the 5th such) and stopped fighting. Some are now working with the Musalaha movement for a peaceful solution in Syria.   (Before leaving Damascus we learned over 100 rebels had agreed to give up their guns and that this is happening throughout Syria.)

Listening to some of the awful traumatic stories of Syrian women
Listening to some of the awful traumatic stories of Syrian women

We also met with six registered opposition parties.  They said that internal problems, such as marginalization of a big part of the Syrian society, was part of the conflict, but that Syrians could deal with these problems, without foreign intervention and internationalization of the crisis in order to implement foreign agendas.

During a reception, the religious leaders, including Grand Mufti Dr. Ahmad Badr al-Din Hassoun and His Beautitude, Patriarch Gregorios Laham, shared their message that Syria is united in its diversity, and their belief that Syrian people will be able to reach an understanding amongst themselves and resolve their differences in a national dialogue and without the use of guns.  They believe in a Syria that is created by Syrians and not by outside forces.  Like most Syrians, they are sure that if other countries will stop the flow of arms, fighters and other interference in Syria, the Syrian people will be able to reach an understanding amongst themselves and rebuild Syria together.  We were also informed that they all support the planned elections in spite of the fighting.

Meeting with the Kessab refugees at the Armenian Church Lettakia city..
Meeting with the Kessab refugees at the Armenian Church Lettakia city..

Our delegation left Syria inspired by and hopeful for the Syrian people, for peace in their country, and we ask our countries and indeed all countries, to respect the integrity and sovereignty of Syria.

 

To all those who have lost loved ones, we extend our deepest sympathy.  We thank our hosts and the Syrian people for their kindness and hospitality and assure them of our solidarity as they rebuild their country, which has suffered so very much.

 

Mairead Maguire

Nobel Peace Laureate

www.peacepeople.com

Member of International Peace Delegation to

Iran and Syria

April, 2014.


63 Comments

Wed

23

Apr

2014

99th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

April 24th 1915 marks the date upon which the Ottoman-Turks commenced their genocides against the ethnic Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks, in a matter of 3 years the Ottoman Turks had killed 2.75 million people.  

On March 21st last Turkey facilitated a group of rebels, including members of the al-Qaeda group Jabhat al-Nusra, to cross the Turkish border into Syria. The rebels attacked the Syrian border town of Kessab most of whose resident are ethnic Armenian. It was a frightening echo of past atrocities as thousands were again forced to leave the town just as their ancestors had done so many years before.

 

Thousands fled the town, some going towards the sea to take small boats others left by car some on foot. Today a majority of Kessab’s residents are living in the city of Lattakia. Reliable media reports say that the town is now being systematically looted by the rebels.  

 

Remembering the Turkish Attack on Kessab of 1909 and 1915

Arpiar Missakian Born in 1894 in Kessab
Arpiar Missakian Born in 1894 in Kessab

Eyewitness testimony of the late Arpiar Missakian who was born in Kessab in 1894: "In 1909, during the Adana massacres, Turkish soldiers attacked Kessab. I was merely a boy then. They came early in the morning. They were 20,000 strong with Mausers and other artillery. The men of our town fought back, my father among them. But all they had were these ancient hunting rifles. Shifteh, they called them. Not very effective. They lost 50 to 60 men before we fled. They held off the Turkish army until noon or so, then we fled.

 

With the help of the French, we fled to Latakia to the north on boats. We returned five to six days later to find all our houses burned to the ground. Only charred stone walls remained; everything else was burned. It took us months to rebuild.

 

In 1915, we were the last to be deported out of Kessab because we were Protestant. The American ambassador in Bolis had apparently secured guarantees for our safety, but we were deported anyway. They took us toward Dier-ez-Zor--the interior Syrian desert. Our whole family: my father, mother, four brothers, two sisters. I was 20 or 21 at the time. We loaded everything we had on mules and horses and set out under armed guards. They took us to Meskene on the Euphrates River. Meskene was a huge outdoor camp where tens of thousands of Armenians had been deported--bit by bit they were sent to Dier-ez-Zor, to their death. We were there for a while. We lived under tents along with a lot of others from Kessab. Most of the time we had nothing to eat. Sometimes my father would buy bread from the soldiers, but they had mixed sand with the flour--so we ate this hard bread, and sand crunched under our teeth.

 

Meskene was a horrible, horrible place. Sixty thousand Armenians had been buried under the sand there. When a sandstorm hit, it would blow away a lot of the sand and uncover those remains. Bones, bones, bones were everywhere then. Wherever you looked, wherever you walked." 

 

Taken from an article published in the Huffington Post in 2009


28 Comments

Tue

22

Apr

2014

First Anniversary of the Abduction of the Aleppo Archbishops

Above image top left and top right: Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Metropolitan Paul Yazigi, Antiochian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo both of whom were kidnapped when the car they were travelling in was stopped by terrorist rebels in northern Aleppo province close to the Turkish border on 22nd of April 2013.  The driver of the car, Deacon Fathallah Kabud was killed by the terrorists during the course of the kidnapping. The whereabouts of the archbishops remains unknown.

 

Above image lower left and lower right: Fr. Michael Kayal, Armenian Catholic Church and Fr. Maher Isaac Mahfouz, Antiochian Orthodox Church both of whom were kidnapped when the bus they were travelling on near Aleppo was stopped by terrorist rebels on 9th of February 2013. The whereabouts of the priests remains unknown. There is much speculation as to whether the clergy have been killed or are still held in captivity.

 Funeral of Syriac Orthodox Martyr Rev. Deacon Fathallah Kabud who was murdered by the terrorists who abducted the Archbishops.
Funeral of Syriac Orthodox Martyr Rev. Deacon Fathallah Kabud who was murdered by the terrorists who abducted the Archbishops.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague with George Sabra in London, April 2013.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague with George Sabra in London, April 2013.

The Fourth Man in the Car

 

There was a fourth person travelling in the car on the day the Archbishops were kidnapped and he was neither killed like the deacon nor abducted, like the Archbishops. His name is Fouad Elias. No adequate explanation has ever been provided as to why he is the only one free. He is, by coincidence, a cousin of George Sabra, a prominent member of the NATO - Gulf States funded and backed Syrian external “opposition”.  Many within the church, both in Syria and the wider region, have questioned the Western media’s relative silence with regard to these and so many other crimes committed by western backed rebels.  Thousands remain kidnapped and/or missing in Syria today.


The Deacon's family have left Syria

Above: The family of the Syriac Orthodox Martyr Rev. Deacon  Fathallah attending his funeral at the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo, April 2013. Since then some of the family of the late Deacon have left Syria, like so many other traumatised victims of the violence that has engulfed Syria they have sought refuge elsewhere. Left and below: Family members and others attend a memorial liturgy for Deacon Fathallah at the Syriac Orthodox Church of St Mary, Vienna, Austria, April 2014.



23 Comments

Tue

22

Apr

2014

Syria’s President, Vatican’s Ambassador and Syrian Church leaders Easter visit to Maaloula

"On the day of the resurrection of Christ, and from the heart of Ma’loula, President Assad hopes all Syrians have a happy Easter, and for the reestablishment of peace and security throughout Syria."

The President of Syria

On the occasion of Easter Sunday and as a mark of solidarity with all that Maaloula has endured the President of Syria, the Vatican’s Nuncio to Syria and the heads of several of Syria’s Christian communities in the company of  Muslim clerics made special visits to the now liberated town. The majority Christian town and UNESCO world heritage site was one of only 3 places left in the world where the Aramaic language of Christ was still spoken. The town fell in to the hands of terrorists twice over, thousands fled, some were kidnapped others killed and the entire town looted and torched by western backed forces.  

Left: Archbishop Mario Zenari, the Vatican’s Apostolic Nuncio to Syria and the Melkite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Gregorius III survey some of the damage to the ruined Monetary of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, Maaloula. The monastery, one of the world’s oldest, was destroyed when the town was seized by NATO backed FSA (“free” Syrian Army) rebels working in concert with Jabhat al Nusra the official al-Qaeda in Syria. Inset: The monastery Church before it was destroyed.  

 

Maaloula was first attacked on Wednesday the 4th of September 2013, at around 6 a.m. the town, against its will, was submerged into violence by an invasion from terrorist rebels.  A suicide bomber attacked an army checkpoint on the outskirts of the town killing 12 soldiers. Rebels subsequently attacked members of the local civil defence and succeeded in overrunning the centre of the town.

 

The towns 3,300 inhabitants, mostly Christian and some Muslim, all fled for their lives and by the time the rebels were forced out of the town it is estimated that 25 soldiers and 20 civilians were dead, many more were injured and several of the town’s residents were kidnapped. In the aftermath only 50 civilian residents remained in the town, inclusive of 13 nuns and 3 lay women at the convent of St Tekla. 

The Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch John X and the Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregorius III stand together in the sanctuary of the ancient Antiochian Orthodox convent church of St. Tekla. Rebels looted and burned the convent and the church.
The Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch John X and the Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregorius III stand together in the sanctuary of the ancient Antiochian Orthodox convent church of St. Tekla. Rebels looted and burned the convent and the church.

The town was again attacked on the 30th of November 2013 by rebel terrorists when they rolled large truck tyres, packed with explosives, off the cliffs that overlook the town. This caused serious damage to homes and monasteries beneath. The explosions also caused fires which spread from house to house in the densely packed ancient town. The army were forced to withdraw to outside of the town, which also led to the withdrawal of some of the men who were still in residence. Those who did not get out in time were shot dead. No one was left but the nuns. After taking control of the town the rebels made their way to the convent of St. Tekla and use explosives to blow open the ancient metal doors and gain access to the building.  Jabhat al Nusra, the official al-Qaeda in Syria, kidnapped the 13 nuns, one as old as 90, and 3 lay women helpers from the convent.

The picturesque Blue Cafe in Maaloula before and after the visit of western backed rebels. The hopes and dreams of thousands, their livelihoods and futures lie in ruin. Click to enlarge.
The picturesque Blue Cafe in Maaloula before and after the visit of western backed rebels. The hopes and dreams of thousands, their livelihoods and futures lie in ruin. Click to enlarge.

They were taken against their will to the rebel controlled town of Yabroud.  Maaloula was systematically looted and destroyed and the ancient convent church of St. Tekla was desecrated. Reports say that having looted the valuables the rebels urinated and defecated in the sanctuary and then set fire to the church.  The nuns were released in March 2014 but only after an exchange of prisoners and the payment of a large ransom to al-Qaeda.

Presidential visit to Maaloula on the occasion of Easter

President Basher al Assad made a special Easter Sunday visit to the liberated town of Maaloula. The president accompanied by a priest surveyed the damage at the ruined monastery of Saints Sergius and Bacchus and also visit the ruined convent of St. Tekla as well as viewing other parts of the town. On the occasion of the visit the president said that "On the day of the resurrection of Christ, and from the heart of Ma’loula, President Assad hopes all Syrians have a happy Easter, and for the reestablishment of peace and security throughout Syria."

On the way back from Maaloula the president paid a surprise visit to the village of Ayn al-Tinah where he received a rapturous welcome from residents.
On the way back from Maaloula the president paid a surprise visit to the village of Ayn al-Tinah where he received a rapturous welcome from residents.
President Assad at Sts. Sergius and Bacchus
President Assad at Sts. Sergius and Bacchus

Palestinian Archbishop says that President al-Assad’s visit to Maaloula indicates failure of conspiracy against Syria

Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia [Theodosios (Atallah Hanna)] directed a congratulatory and solidarity message to the Syrian people on the occasion of the Easter, hoping that God will save Syria, its people and army.

 

Archbishop Hanna said that President Bashar al-Assad’s visit to Maaloula village in Damascus 

 

Orthodox Archbishop Theodosios (Atallah Hanna) of Sebastia (Nablus Palestine) with Druze leaders during a recent visit to the Israeli occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
Orthodox Archbishop Theodosios (Atallah Hanna) of Sebastia (Nablus Palestine) with Druze leaders during a recent visit to the Israeli occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

Countryside and inspecting the damage caused to its monasteries by the armed terrorist groups indicates that he is not only Syria’s President but also a father of all the Syrians, Christians and Muslims.

 

“The President’s visit comes in a time when some extremist and savage armed terrorist groups in Syria are imposing tributes on Christians and preventing them from practicing their rituals or rising their crosses …the President came to say no to extremism, terrorism and brutality… he came to advocate amity, fraternity, national unity and tolerance among the Christians and Muslims in this region,” he added.

 

Archbishop Hanna expressed the solidarity of the Palestinians in the occupied Jerusalem with Syria, stressing that this visit just like plenty previous others indicates the failure of the conspiracy that cannot undermine Syria’s unity. Original article here

Homs Governor makes Easter Visit to the Valley of the Christians

Tala al-Barazi the governor of Homs province makes a courtesy visit, on the occasion of Easter, to the communities of the Wadi al-Nasara (the Valley of the Christians). Across the valley the security situation for the villagers has improved greatly since government forces succeeded in dislodging the terrorist groups who were holed up in the mountain top Krak des Chevaliers, a crusader era castle also known as al-Husn Fort. The structure dominated the region. The population of the valley at the start of the conflict was 150,000 but this has swollen to 250,000 as other Christians fled here to find refuge and safety in numbers.

An example of the type of trauma the people of the valley have endured.

Screen captures from a video which shows the takfiri terrorist group Jund al Sham (Soldiers of the Levant) undertaking the ritualised slaughter of 3 men in civilian clothing. The atrocity appears to have occurred within the precinct of the Krak des Chevaliers crusader castle in the Wadi al Nasara (the Valley of the Christians) where the terrorist group had been based until they were dislodged by government forces in late March 2014.


58 Comments

Mon

21

Apr

2014

Syrian Patriarch calls for confronting Takfiri mentality

Article for the Tehran based Alalam news outlet

The Greek 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."

 

In comments to mark Easter, Patriarch Yazigi called on everyone to help putting an end to "intimidation, displacement, extremism and takfiri mentality".

 

Takfiri Wahabbism is a common belief among Western-backed rebel groups fighting to topple the Syrian government.

 

Radical groups have been attacking Syrian Christians in small towns and villages as punishment for what they consider Christians' support for President Bashar Assad.

 

There are hundreds of radical group, some of them with links to the terrorist group of al-Qaeda that are killing Syrian people and army soldiers, using what many see as a cover provided by the support US and its regional and western allies have for the ongoing war in Syria.

 

Despite what Washington has been claiming on having considerations and concerns on supporting what it calls ‘moderate’ groups, radical groups have been gaining more power in Syria.


Syria’s foreign-charged war is taking more lives by the day, as al-Qaeda has an ‘official representative’ on the battle ground, al-Nusra Front, which happens to be one of the strongest forces aiding the so-called Free Syrian Army of the Syrian opposition.

His Beatitude the Patriarch of Antioch,  John X  Yazigi
His Beatitude the Patriarch of Antioch, John X Yazigi

Pope Makes Easter Plea for Peace

On Syria, where a raging three-year conflict is estimated to have killed more than 150,000 people, the pope said it was time for warring sides to “boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue.


Al-Nusra Front became al-Qaeda’s representative after group’s leader Aymen Zawahiri disbanded the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and announced cutting ties with the group. Original article here

The Takfiri Mentality

Orthodox and Catholic Church leaders denounce Takfirism in Syria. Patriarch John X Yazigi in his Easter message called on everyone to help put an end to "intimidation, displacement, extremism and takfiri mentality" and at their pre Easter gathering the Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Syria said “we declare our rejection of all forms of extremism, takfirism, murder and extortion, and all attacks on people and buildings. We condemn attacks on places of worship, whether churches or mosques."

Above: Takfiri extremists cook the severed heads of two Syrian prison guards after they attacked the "Gharaz" prison in Daraa province on the 19th of March, 2014. WARNING: The original unedited image can be viewed here

Above: The takfiri militant Abu Sakkar who cannibalised the human remains of a Syrian soldier was a former member of the  western backed  F.S.A. (“free” Syrian Army) and belonged to a group called the Farouq Brigade, the same western backed group that were principally responsible for the ethno-religious cleansing of Homs old city where 80,000 Christians were forced to flee their neighbourhoods.


Above right: The estranged al-Qaeda group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Syria) in al-Anbar province Iraq shown here pouring gasoline - petrol over the bodies of Iraqi soldiers before setting them alight and dragging them along behind their vehicles. The Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has said that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are openly funding violence in al-Anbar province. WARNING: Original graphic unedited images can be viewed here

Below: A mother from the Wadi al-Nasra (valley of the Christians) whose son was beheaded by takfiri militants expresses her grief and begs the Lord to end this evil.

Worshiping Wahhabi Wealth

"Takfiri Wahabbism is a common belief among Western-backed rebel groups fighting to topple the Syrian government".

Wahhabism is an ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam. It is a religious movement among fundamentalist believers, which originates in Saudi Arabia and promotes a Takfiri mentality which believes that all those including fellow Muslims who do not follow their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam are to be considered as kafir (infidel)

Note: The United Kingdom government in concert with the United States, France, its NATO partners and its Gulf regime allies have assisted in the training, funding, arming and the provision of logistical and intelligence support to the opposition armed factions in Syria.  Today the vast majority of these fighters follow a radical extremist ideology that principally originates with British /French/American ally Saudi Arabia.

Muslim clerics speak against Takfiri ideology at a gathering in Beirut, Lebanon. 03/07/2013


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Easter Blessings

Peace for Syria and the World

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. Luke 24: 2-3

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. Luke 24: 2-3
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. Luke 24: 2-3

Paschal Letter 2014