Syria: 800 Christians gather in Aleppo peace demonstration

Christians continue to flee, villages fear ISIS

23 September, 10:48

    Syria: 800 Christians gather in Aleppo peace demonstration Syria: 800 Christians gather in Aleppo peace demonstration

    (ANSAmed) - ROME - Roughly 800 Syrian Christian youth gathered this week in an Aleppo religious community centre to demonstrate resistance to ongoing fighting between regime and rebel forces, a Syrian Catholic priest said. Despite bombing by anti-Assad militants in the Christian neighborhoods of Aleppo, a two-day meeting, called You Are My Witnesses, took place in the city's Salesian centre. "It represented a moment of joy, faith and prayer for peace," the priest, who did not want his identity known, told ANSAmed. Conflict has placed Syrian Christians in dramatic circumstances. More than 200,000 Christians have fled Syria, while hundreds of thousands more have evacuated cities and other at-risk areas to seek refuge in the so-called Valley of the Christians, near the Mediterranean. Mharda, a town in central Syria where about 20,000 Christians live, for weeks has been threatened with attack and possible conquest by groups linked to the Islamic State.

    "Now the situation has improved, but the fear remains," said the priest.

    Tension in many Christian villages is high. One false alarm after another often prompt people to flee, only to return and find their homes looted by criminal gangs. "No one knows how this war will end," said the priest.

    Among Christians and moderate Muslims "resentment is strong toward the West, which allowed terrorist groups to proliferate and take root in parts of Syria, a nation that was once a symbol of coexistence among faiths," the priest added. "The United States has moved openly to protect only their oil interests, starting from Iraqi Kurdistan," the priest went on.

    Among the few certainties in the four-year war, "where in some areas it is difficult even to figure out who is fighting who," remains "the fact that the Syrian (regime) army still represents the unity of the country and seeks to maintain security in areas under its control, while the central government continues to pay salaries and pensions to its own citizens, even in Ar-Raqqah, the stronghold of ISIS Islamists," the priest said. "Schools are reopening in these days in spite of everything". (ANSAmed).

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