In Qara the Islamist “Free” Syrian Army were routed by the more extreme rebels and so al-Qaeda affiliated groups overran the town at which time 35 Christian families took refuge in the church to pray. “The gate of the church was hit. Armed fighters entered with covered face, long hair, not Syrians, it was not clear what nationality they belonged to. They said: we want to kill you all, Christian dogs. And we will burn this idolatrous place". At that point, one of the parishioners, Emile speaking in Arabic, began boldly to negotiate with the leader of the group, citing verses from the Koran, saying that Islam respects Christians and other minorities. "The man replied that he would ask his boss to decide our fate and leads his men out of the building", says Fr. George. Meanwhile, the priest and the faithful leave the church, and all flee in the alleys of the old town. They go on the motorway and join other refugees, reaching the village of Der Atieh Here they receive warm hospitality from the local Christians of other denominations: the priest and the Greek - Orthodox faithful welcome them with great generosity. Meanwhile, even Der Atieh ends up in the crosshairs of jihadists (see Fides 25/11/2013). The militiamen begin a "manhunt" and take Christians hostage. "We hid in the basement for 4 days and 4 nights, without food, water, electricity", says Fr. Louis. "After a night of prayer, we decided to escape. We reached Sadad, another martyred city (see Fides 31/10/2013). Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh and the faithful who returned to the city welcomed us with love and kindness". Medical staff at the hospital in Der Atied were murdered by the al-Qaeda affiliated rebels including the killing of Dr Ala’a Wajih Aleed, a Christian, and native of the town of Sadad, scene of an earlier massacre against Christians. Later on in the town of Adra an even greater massacre took place against the townspeople and again the local hospital was attacked. One of the doctors who were executed there was a Christian, Dr. George Makhoul, who was beheaded,
the rebels suspended his severed head from a tree outside the hospital.
Meanwhile, the situation is dramatic in Qara. After days of fighting, there is rubble everywhere. Many homes and roads were mined with explosives. The Greek Catholic church of St. Michael was devastated and burned. Other Catholic Orthodox churches in Der Athie suffered the same fate as well as some mosques: is a warning to moderate Muslims.
Fr. George explains: "These are extremist foreign fighters, who want to sow hatred and sectarian violence , wanton destruction, no respect for civilians. I am not in the FSA. We do nothing but pray. In this exodus, we tried the beautiful experience of solidarity and affection between Catholic and Orthodox Christians". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 28/11/2013)