ASIA/SYRIA - Conflicting statements on the issue of the Sisters of Maalula

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Damascus (Agenzia Fides) - The story of the nuns of Santa Tecla taken from the convent after the occupation of the city of Maalula by anti-Assad militias remains unclear.
According to sources in Damascus confirmed to agencies also by the Apostolic Nuncio Mario Zenari, the Mother Superior Pelagia Sayyaf was able to speak over the phone with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch on Wednesday, December 4, confirming that the nuns are fine. While Musab al Jair, spokesman for the Military Council in Damascus (body of the rebels) reported to Efe agency that the nuns could be released somewhere in the region of Qualamun, in response to requests from Christians around the world. The nuns currently find themselves in the city of Yabrud, controlled by the rebels.
After the occupation of Maalula by rebel militias, the official sources of the regime have written that the nuns and orphans present in the monastery had been kidnapped by "terrorists". On Wednesday, December 4th, the daily newspaper pro-regime Al-Watan added that "the terrorists were planning to use the abducted nuns as human shields".
On the opposite side, rebel sources widely mentioned by Al Arabiya television channel released the version that snipers loyal to the regime had tried to block attempts to evacuate the nuns to ensure their safety.
The conflicting reconstructions of the story - as pointed out by the organization Middle East Concern - "reflect the complexity of the crisis and the widespread tendency to use the media to promote the different agendas of the warring parties". According to what is confirmed by the organization Middle East Concern, most of the nuns had already moved to a safer place before the last rebel attack on the city of Maalula. Similarly, even the 21 orphans housed in the monastery were brought to Damascus. Only the mother superior Pelagia Sayyaf and some elderly nuns were left in the sanctuary. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 05/12/2013) .