Qaryatayn (Agenzia Fides) - In recent months, in the Syrian city of Qaryatayn, many Christians were killed in different circumstances, in different ways related to the fact that the region in which that city is situated - reconquered recently by the Syrian army - was in the hands of the jihadists of the Islamic State (Daesh) since August 2015. But several local sources, consulted by Agenzia Fides, deny the news circulating in recent days by international media, that reporting some statements of Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Mar Ignatios Aphrem II spoke of a massacre of 21 Christians killed by jihadists who did not convert to Islam.
Through news reported by various local sources, Agenzia Fides is able to reconstruct everything regarding the deaths of the Christians in Qaryatayn in the past eight months. The scenario that emerges excludes the reconstructions that accredit anti-Christian massacres in Qaryatayn at a time when the jihadists of Daesh commanded in the region, and instead helps to perceive first-hand the many factors of violence that undermined Syria in recent years.
In detail, the local sources contacted by Fides report that from 5 to 20 September 2015, among the Christians who lived in Qaryatayn subjugated to jihadists - after signing the so-called "protective or subjugated contract" (see Fides 10/7/2015 contract) - there were five deaths: four natural deaths, and a young man was killed by a bombing during an air raid of the anti-Daesh forces. On September 22, a Christian was murdered by jihadists on charges of blasphemy, not for insulting the Prophet Mohammad and the Koran, but because while he was working in a vineyard, other Muslim workers had heard him cursing.
Meanwhile, at the beginning of September, three Christians of Qaryatayn, along with a Christian from Qamishli and another who belongs to a Christian city of Sadad, had been taken as hostages until Raqqa. A few weeks later, among Qaryatayn Muslim the rumor had circulated that in the Syrian stronghold of the Islamic State those Christians had been killed, but this news was not confirmed to the sources contacted by Fides.
As from October, Christians in Qryatayn, with the help of Muslim friends, started to leave the city towards Homs, in small groups, to reach the areas and villages controlled by the Syrian army, while the bombings on the area of the anti-jihadist coalitions intensified. The first to be put in the condition to flee were the young unmarried Christian girls, because there was rumor that some jihadi leaders wanted them as wives. On October 10 also father Jacques Murad was released, the prior of the monastery of Mar Elian kidnapped by jihadists in May along with other Christians (about 250) who had been taken hostage and temporarily deported when Daesh had occupied the area.
After the first escapes of Christians, the jihadists seized ten young baptized men, subjected them to torture by threatening them with death if they did not convert to Islam. Previously, priests and Christian leaders, talking with their faithful had suggested that in such cases it was better to declare their conversion to Islam rather than losing their lives, trusting that this denial of faith made in words and not with the heart could be temporary.
Christian families fleeing used a farm as a "logistic base" along the way, located in an area not controlled by the army nor the government nor from the so-called Islamic State. On that farm, five Christians and six Muslims were helping Christian families who arrived on foot to escape, by organizing their journey to Homs and agreeing to keep the goods that the fugitives could not take with them. One day in December, about fifty members of an armed group not linked to the jihadists attacked the farm, brutally killing both the five Christians and six Muslims, raided the assets that the fugitives had left there in storage.
The last three Christians who died in Qaryatayn fell under the bombings that hit the area in the phase of reconquest carried out by the Syrian army with Russian support.
The story of the suffering endured by Christians in Qaryatayn, with its bright, obscure and indecipherable elements that always accompany the historical revelation of the mystery of evil, also helps to understand that the tragic events of the five years of tragic Syrian conflict cannot be understood adhering uncritically to the schematics of the different ideological propaganda. There were also Muslims killed in Qaryatayn while helping their fellow Christians flee the violence, in the hope of returning to live "a quiet and peaceable life" in their land one day, as that provided for by St. Paul in the First Letter to Timothy. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 12/04/2016)