A siege by al-Qaeda-linked rebels of the historic Christian village of Maaloula, Syria, has highlighted the severity of the threat to the country’s Christian minority. Barnabas is continuing to provide relief to thousands of families who have been driven from their homes by such targeted violence.
The militants launched an assault on Maaloula on the outskirts of Damascus last Wednesday (4 September). They seized control of the village, which is one of the most famous and historic centres of Christianity in the world, following clashes with government troops. Fighting is ongoing.
The bodies of Christians shot dead in the violent takeover were left lying in the streets, and residents were threatened, “Either you convert to Islam or you will be beheaded.” At least seven Christians were killed and around 15 kidnapped.
After moving into the village, the Islamists entered every Christian home and broke Christian symbols. Churches have been attacked and crosses on buildings destroyed.
Maaloula, where Aramaic, the ancient language of Jesus, is still spoken, has been left a ghost town, as most of its population of around 3,000 has fled; only 30 elderly couples remain. Barnabas will be providing assistance to the devastated people of this important Christian village.
The funerals of three Christians killed in the attack had to be held in Bab Touma, Damascus, because of the ongoing danger in Maaloula, aggravating the distress of the bereaved.
Christians from Maaloula told Barnabas Fund on Friday (13 September): "Let history record that Maaloula is crying today."
It is a terrifying picture of what has been happening to Christian communities throughout Syria; they are being deliberately targeted by Islamists among the opposition forces because of their faith.
Hundreds of thousands have now either fled the country or are internally displaced, having had to leave their homes and most of their possessions behind. Barnabas is providing aid, including food parcels, hygiene kits, clothing, blankets, heaters, sleeping mats and medical care, to the most needy Christian families.
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Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:
The siege of Maaloula is an extremely grave marker in the Syrian civil war. Because of the historic importance of the village as a centre of Christianity, its brutal takeover by Islamists is of considerable symbolic significance: Christians are being wiped off the map of Syria. We are helping desperate families to cling on through our prayers, support and aid. Please give to this expanding work if you are able.
If you would like to help Christians affected by the war in Syria, please send a one-off donation or set up a Direct Debit to the Middle East Fund to help Christians in Syria (project 00-1032).
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