ASIA/SYRIA - A Catholic priest in the province of Damascus was victim of an attack

Damascus (Agenzia Fides) - Severe attack against father George Louis, priest of the Greek catholic church of San Michele, in the historical center of Qara, in the province of Damascus. As Fides sources in the Greek Catholic Syrian Church report, yesterday, May 11th, at dawn, two masked gunmen entered his home, threatened him with guns, demanding the keys to the premises. They tied him and ordered him to hand over the keys. Because of his hesitation, one of them hit him in the head with a glass bottle, causing him a deep wound that was bleeding profusely, then hit him in the face, breaking his tooth. After stealing sacred vessels and the laptop, the robbers held him in the bathroom and closed his mouth with an adhesive. They then tried to strangle him with a pipe, but after a signal, they escaped, leaving him unconscious but alive. After about two hours father George, with his hands still bound, was able to call one of his parishioners for help. They medicated him with five stitches to his head. In the city religious and civic leaders, Christians and Muslims, have condemned the attack. Opposition leaders are expected tomorrow, May 13, for a meeting with the greek catholic abbot of the City. The aim is to avoid sectarian bias, although the situation in Qara for 500 Christians, who have always lived in harmony with approximately 25 thousand Sunni citizens, remains difficult.
With the strong armed conflicts and violence in Baba Amr and in the province of Homs, entire families have taken refuge in Qara and have been accommodated in public buildings, gymnasiums, mosques or cultural centers or private places. Among them are many Syrian Liberation Army fighters. The presence of these elements – report local sources to Fides - has soon turned Qara into a violent and unsafe place, with robberies, kidnappings, and a climate of banditry and lawlessness, as shown in the attack against Fr. George Louis.
His Beatitude Gregorios III Laham, Greek Melkite Patriarch of Antioch and of all the East, commenting on the incident re-launched the alarm concerning "banditry and the total lack of security, as well as the indiscriminate violence." Factors that "constitute a danger to everyone, but especially for Christians and other minorities" and generate "very serious psychological terror in our population." (PA) (Agenzia Fides 12/5/2012)

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