Talk about all victims in Syria

First published in Peter Mullen The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

THERE are horrific reports coming out of Syria. Yes, it is true that President Bashar Assad is slaughtering his own people, men, women and children indiscriminately.

There are hundreds of arrests and there is torture. Prisoners are taken out and shot and their bodies buried immediately in mass graves. Ordinary, unarmed civilians in Homs and in many other small towns and villages in the north and east of the country have been bombed and shelled for weeks and they have no food and little water.

These are the facts and they are terrible.

But there are other, scarcely less terrible, facts which are not being reported in our daily newspapers or on radio and TV.

These involve atrocities perpetrated not by hard-pressed rebels, opponents of the dictator Assad, but by some of the rebels themselves.

The Barnabas Fund is a charity committed to fighting religious persecution and it is giving emergency medical aid to Christians trapped in Homs following the withdrawal of anti-Assad forces from the Baba Amr district.

They are without power and they are running out of supplies in the freezing weather.

The Barnabas Fund is working, through church partners on the ground to get food, clothing and medicine to Christian families.

A senior Christian leader told the fund that until last Monday, Christians had been blocked from leaving Homs, not by the Syrian army but by anti-government forces. He said that the rebel fighters wanted to keep them there as “human shields” in a bid to protect the areas they controlled from government troops.

Mercifully, after negotiation, some women and children were allowed to leave.

Christian families who can are leaving Syria altogether, seeking refuge in neighbouring Lebanon.

A spokesman for Barnabas said: “The security status is very alarming. Christians fear what the present and near future holds for them. Already people who have left their homes are not sure if they can go back. Our Christian people are saying: ‘We know what happened in Iraq and so we had better leave before we are all killed.’”

Following the fall of Saddam Hussein after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Christians became the target of Muslim extremists.

Consequently, hundreds of thousands of Christians fled. Many of them went to Syria.

The same pattern is now emerging in Syria. Al Qaida militants are believed to be coming into the country and killing Christians.

Other Christians are being kidnapped by Muslim groups.

Last weekend, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of the fund, said: “I fear that the crisis in Syria is only going to intensify.

Foreign military intervention could lead to a long and protracted war in which Christians, as perceived supporters of President Assad, would be particularly vulnerable.

“They are already suffering abuse and violence at the hands of the Free Syrian Army.

“Today we have a window of opportunity to alleviate the distress of the Christian families who have been trapped in Homs. Please help us to help them.”

It is long past the time for the western media to notice that not all the evils being performed in Syria are the doing of President Assad.


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