In yet another disturbing example of the genocide facing Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East, on 12-13 May a group from Islamic State (IS) entered a town near the city of Hama in Syria, populated only by Christians and Alawites, killing an as yet unspecified number of men, women and children. Prior to the women being killed they were first raped. Meanwhile in Aleppo, fighting continued during the truce agreed between the Syrian government and non-jihadist rebels, resulting in yet more deaths and injuries.
“We are melting like a candle!”
This is the cry of Barnabas Aid’s representative in Aleppo, a senior doctor and leader in the city’s Baptist community, in response to yet another systematic attack on Christians, this time in a town near the city of Hama. Alawites, a minority Muslim group in Syria, were also targeted. Men were beheaded, whilst women were raped and then murdered. Many children were also killed. It is not yet clear exactly how many people have been killed.
“Where are the leaders of the West, Ban Ki-Moon (Secretary-General of the United Nations), the EU, WHO (World Health Organization), and other Christian organisations”, our representative writes. “How long will my nation tolerate and stay. We don’t hold arms and weapons, but we are melting like a candle! Is it possible for our voice to reach to all others?”
Fighting in Aleppo continued despite tentative truce
Prior to the truce being agreed on Thursday 5 May – which lasted until midnight last Wednesday (11 May) – around 200 people in the government area alone, populated mostly by Christians, had been killed and hundreds more injured after two weeks’ intense fighting which began on the weekend of the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide (22-24 April). More civilians have been killed and injured in the rebel-held areas of the city.
Our representative in Aleppo emailed on Monday 9 May to report that on Sunday afternoon (8 May) “another three rockets hit our Christian quarter and had few deaths and about 10 injuries.”
Many are fleeing the city. In fact, since the war in Syria began more than half of the city’s population has fled. Only a quarter of the Christian population in 2011 now remain. Not all can escape, though; the poorest in the city simply cannot afford to leave. There has also been an increase in nervous breakdowns and other psychological illness caused by the ongoing war.
A church leader in Aleppo recently said, “You cannot imagine the dangers that we face every day.”
These words are echoed by a local mother, who added, “Would you like to know how Jesus was feeling when he was carrying his cross and awaiting the time of his death? You can ask our children. They are carrying their crosses and are awaiting their death. [But] we are refusing to see death anymore in Syria – Aleppo especially – and we are declaring the resurrection of Christ on our beloved country!”
Barnabas Aid has already sent £80,000 (€100,000; $110,000) to Christians in Aleppo affected by the bombardment to help with medical treatment for the injured, food and shelter for the newly homeless, and funeral costs such as coffins.