Article from the Vatican’s Pontifical Missions news service, Fides
Aleppo (Agenzia Fides) - The Christian village of Kanayé, Orontes River, in the Governorate of Idlib, has been invaded by Islamist militants that terrorize the population, threaten a massacre and have imposed the Islamic law. This is what was reported to Fides Agency by Mgr. Giuseppe Nazzaro, vicar emeritus of Aleppo, who received an alarming report by the faithful Christians of Aleppo. This has become a pattern that repeats itself and that in recent weeks has focused on a number of Christian villages: armed guerrillas penetrate into the village, terrorize civilians, commit kidnappings, kill, sow destruction. "In Kanayé Salafi militants and the jihadists of 'Jabhat al-Nousra' have imposed on the pastor not to ring bells. Women must not go out on the street bare-headed, but must be veiled. And if they do not obey these orders, the threat is massacre", reads a note of Msr. Nazzaro, sent to Fides.
"We are facing what they have already done in the nearby village of Ghassanieh for over a year. In Ghassanieh they warned the residents to leave the village immediately, otherwise they would have killed them, and they got the desired result: to occupy the village with what Christians possessed. In Kanayé, they have not imposed on the population to leave but to live according to the Islamic law". According to the vicar emeritus, "this could be the first step: tomorrow they will force them to convert to Islam".
In recent days, Fr. George Louis, Greek-Catholic parish priest of the village of Qara, which has been devastated and burned, explained to Fides: "Maalula, Sednaya, Sadad, Qara and Deir Atieh, Nebek: armed jihadists target a village, they invade it, kill people, burn and devastate it. For civilians, Christian or non-Christians, life is always more difficult. The foreign militia act out of the control of our Syrian Free Syrian Army (FSA) compatriots, who instead respect everyone, and they do not want to raze the entire country". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 16/12/2013) Original article here
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)