Syrian churches targeted by Assad forces, report claims

Archbishop Jean Abdou Arbach with an icon destroyed in Syria by Islamist militants in April 2018 (ACN)

Forces loyal to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are responsible for the majority of targeted attacks on churches since the country’s civil war began in 2011, a new report alleges. Source: CNA.

In a report released on Monday, the Syrian Network for Human Rights says it has evidence of the Assad regime targeting of churches, mosques, and religious sites in Syria between March of 2011 and September of 2019.

 “While the regime claims that it has not committed any violations, and that it is keen on protecting the Syrian state and the rights of minorities, it has carried out qualitative operations in suppressing and terrorising all those who sought political change and reform, regardless of religion or race, and of whether this causes the destruction of the heritage of Syria and the displacement of its minorities,” said, SNHR chairman Fadel Abdul Ghany on Monday.

The report identifies several attacks on religious targets, included bombings of houses of worship that were not near any military installation or equipment, and the transformation of houses of worship into centres for military operations.

The report, entitled “Targeting Christian Places of Worship in Syria is a Threat to World Heritage”, is the result of more than eight years’ work in Syrian towns and villages and obtaining reports from people on the ground and from activists, SNHR said. Sources included firsthand accounts of attacks, medical personnel who treated casualties and victims, and local activists with documented evidence of the attacks.

SNHR report presented a list of 124 attacks on Christian “places of worship” since March of 2011.

Seventy-five of the attacks—60 per cent—came from pro-Assad forces against 48 separate Christian sites. Those forces included the Syrian army, security forces, local militias, and Shiite foreign militias.

Bishop Nicholas James Samra of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton told CNA that “the situation is very convoluted” in Syria and urged caution in interpreting the report's findings.

Bishop Samra said many Christians in the region still see Assad as the best prospect for their their own security.

“The big fear of the Christians—the majority—is if he [Assad] goes, who will come in? And that is the big, big fear.”

FULL STORY

Syrian churches targeted by Assad forces, new report claims (CNA)

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