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2013-04-25

ASIA/SYRIA - Report on Religious Freedom: sectarian and confessional violence increases

Washington (Agenzia Fides) - The recent destruction of the minaret of the Umayyad mosque in Aleppo and the kidnapping of two Orthodox bishops, note sources of Fides, symbolize "having crossed a red line" in the Syrian conflict. On the battlefield human rights violations, abuses of religious freedom, attacks on places or people motivated by religion are constantly increasing: is the alarm launched by the new Report titled "Protecting and promoting religious freedom in Syria," published in past days by USCIRF, "United States Commission on International Religious Freedom". The Commission is an independent bipartisan body of the U.S. Congress created in 1998 to monitor religious freedom in the world and offer recommendations to the U.S. government.
The report, sent to Fides Agency, states that "government forces have perpetrated religiously motivated attacks against Sunni Muslim civilians and members of religious minority communities" while "sectarian violence and the rhetoric of violence on religious basis" grow. "The condition of religious freedom in Syria is increasingly worrying," marked by the escalation of violence and humanitarian crisis, with a strong impact on all religious communities.
Peaceful demonstrations began in March 2011 - recalls the Report – they had no sectarian or religious overtones, while President Assad ordered a violent repression and the regime repeatedly stated that it was fighting "Islamist factions." In December 2012, the "Human Rights Council" of the United Nations noted that the conflict had become increasingly polarized and violent, not only among pro-Assad forces and opposition forces, but also along ethnic and religious lines. "The rhetoric of religious violence" has increased, as well as the influx of foreign elements with sectarian and extremist agenda. In the war - continues the text - the ethnic and religious identities are intertwined with the political aspects and "whole neighborhoods of the city or the suburbs tend to be dominated by specific religious or ethnic groups." "Religiously motivated attacks are perpetrated by the regime of al-Assad as part of the opposition forces that seek its overthrow, causing severe violations of religious freedom," notes the Commission. Such violations "also threaten Syria's religious diversity, increasing the likelihood of religious violence and retaliation in Syria after the regime, when religious minorities will be particularly vulnerable," warns the text.
According to opposition sources, the Assad regime and its militants have destroyed more than 500,000 buildings, including homes, schools, mosques, churches and hospitals. Even armed groups in the galaxy opposition, especially foreigners have perpetrated such attacks: The Report cites the ancient synagogue of Damascus, looted and damaged, destruction of Shiite mosques, kidnappings and attacks against Christian leaders and the desecration of churches, such as the historic shrine of St. Maroun, in the village of Barad, near Aleppo. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 25/04/2013)

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