Christians in Syria Feel Forgotten as Mass Graves Found in Sadad

Archbishop calls Islamist rebel attack the war's largest massacre.

(Morning Star News) – Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh called it “the most serious and biggest massacre of Christians in Syria in the past two years and a half.”

The Oct. 21 Islamist rebel siege of Sadad, a small town of 15,000 mostly Syriac Orthodox Christians 160 kilometers (95 miles) north of Damascus, left 45 civilians dead, including several women and children; many were thrown into mass graves, reports the Fides News Agency. Archbishop Alnemeh, Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama, said other civilians were threatened and terrorized, with 30 wounded and 10 missing, and 1,500 families were held hostage as human shields for a week.

Before Syrian government forces retook Sadad by Oct. 31, about 2,500 families had fled and are now living as refugees scattered among the cities of Damascus, Homs, Fayrouza, Zaydal, Maskane, and Al-Fhayle, the archbishop said.

“The churches are damaged and desecrated, deprived of old books and precious furniture. Schools, government buildings, municipal buildings have been destroyed, along with the post office, the hospital and the clinic,” he told Fides. “What happened in Sadad is the largest massacre of Christians in Syria and the second in the Middle East, after the one in the Church of Our Lady of Salvation in Iraq in 2010.”

Eyewitnesses identified the Jabhat al-Nusra Front and Daash, two Islamist rebel militias, as responsible for the war crimes, including two mass graves with the bodies of 30 people, notes the Hudson Institute’s Nina Shea in the National Review Online.

Among the churches desecrated in the 4,000-year-old Assyrian town was St. Theodore’s Syriac Orthodox Church, along with a monastery, she reports, adding that Gregorios III Laham, the Melkite Greek Catholic patriarch of Antioch and all the East, estimates that more than 450,000 of Syria’s some 1.75-2 million Christians have left their homes since 2011.

Archbishop Alnemeh, who presided over a funeral for 30 people, told Fides that area Christians feel forgotten.

“I think of all those who are suffering today in mourning and discomfort,” he said. “We ask everyone to pray for us.”

Christians and other religious minorities in Syria are in danger of being eliminated, John Eibner, CEO of Christian Solidarity International, said in a recent statement.

“CSI urges the United States to terminate its direct and indirect military support for Muslim supremacist armies and to insist that the U.S.-financed opposition participate in the Geneva II negotiations with the Syrian government,” Eibner said. “An end to the killing will benefit all the Syrian people and enhance stability throughout the region.”

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