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2014-03-25

ASIA/SYRIA - The Armenian Catholic Patriarch: the Christians who fled from Kessab have to deal with the emergency with a spirit of communion

Beirut (Agenzia Fides ) - "There are more than three hundred Armenian families who have fled from Kessab. They have now found shelter in the Armenian Orthodox parish in the city of Latakia, an hour's drive from Kessab. They have sought refuge in the school and church’s hall. But now they fear that the rebels will also attack Latakia, and many are preparing to flee from there, too". This is how the Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni describes to Fides Agency the uncertain condition in which Christians are forced to leave the city, mostly Armenians, because occupied by anti- Assad rebel militias at the dawn on 21 March. Patriarch Tarmouni is in constant contact with Fr. Nareg Louissian and his parishioners who fled from Kessab and provides precise details of the assault to Fides: "The Christians fled at dawn, some of them in pajamas, without being able to bring anything with them, as soon as they heard the sound of gunfire. The rebels came from the mountains on the border with Turkey. They were many and well armed. The formations of the army which garrisoned the city withdrew, as well as young Armenians of Nashtag (an Armenian left-wing nationalist movement) that had organized groups of armed self-defense around the churches".
The Armenians of Kessab were mostly farmers. Peaceful people. The rural area, so far not involved in the Syrian conflict, holds a symbolic place in the shared memory of the Armenian people: "In 1915, when the Armenians left Cilicia after the genocide perpetrated by the Turks", explains Patriarch Nerses Bedros, "the last Armenian community in the region remained in Kessab". According to the Patriarch, even the military strategies of anti- Assad formation respond, at least in part, to a symbolic order: "Now the rebels are heading for Latakia, which is not as big as Damascus or Aleppo, but is a stronghold of the Alawites, the religious community to which Assad belongs".
In dealing together with the emergency situation, the Armenian Christians - explains to Fides, Patriarch Tarmouni - are experiencing the spirit of fellowship beyond denominational distinctions: "Last Sunday, Catholic and Orthodox Armenians celebrated Mass together. I spoke to our pastor Nareg, and I encouraged him to stay close to all the faithful, in this difficult moment. I was told that 3 Armenian Orthodox priests from Aleppo were sent to Latakia, to offer spiritual and material assistance to refugees". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 25/03/2014)

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