Press Release

London, 1 November 2013

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After the recent attacks by militant Muslims against Maaloula and al-Raqqa, the world has witnessed another organized assault against two Christian places in Syria. The Biblical town of Sadad and Hafar were besieged and destroyed. While 3,000 Christian families managed to escape, 1,500 families were held hostage and used as human shields from 21 to 28 October. Syria’s Christians, who are increasingly yet silently fleeing their homeland, continue to be appalled by the deafening silence of the world on such unpunished crimes against humanity.

On 21 October, seven militant Muslim groups joined forces in laying siege on the Biblical town of Sadad (see Numbers 34:8 and Ezekiel 15:47). Before the Syrian Army liberated it on 28 October, Jubhat al-Nusra (blacklisted as a terrorist organization) and the Katibat al-Mahawer brigade of the Free Syrian Army (recognized and supported by Western and Muslim nations) who formed part of this diabolic alliance, held 1,500 Aramean Christian families for a full week hostage and used them shamelessly as human shields, including women, children and elderly civilians.

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2,500 families managed to flee Sadad before Jihadist destruction and hostage of the remaining families commenced. Some of the hostages were able to escape to the neighbouring town of Hafar. During the siege, at least 45 innocent civilians were gunned down, tortured, executed or burned to death in their homes and on the street. Ten persons are missing and thirty others have been injured. Those who escaped their hometown, carried valuable items with them such as money, gold and documents, but were mercilessly robbed. Before being killed or held hostage, the 500 local Aramean families of Hafar had already managed to escape their hometown.

All the houses and shops were looted and many were set ablaze. The rebels even looted churches from which they stole precious Aramaic manuscripts and destroyed or vandalized images of Jesus and St. Mary with intimidating graffiti carrying messages like “allah u akbar,” “the nephews of the prophet,” “Jubhat al-Nusra” and “the regime will collapse.” Virtually all the public buildings have been utterly destroyed, including the hospital, schools, post office and the municipality.

Before these war crimes were committed, Sadad was regarded as a safe haven by 600 Aramean displaced families from other threatened or destroyed towns, cities and provinces in Syria. With great sadness and concern, the total pre-onslaught population of 4,000 Aramean Christian families has now fled Sadad to more secure places between Homs and Damascus. Very few dare to return home, as they are petrified that these armed terrorists may be close to Sadad and come back again.

Sadad is located 120 km north from Damascus and 60 km south from Homs. Aramaic, the language of Jesus, was still flourishing there as a living language. The prospering town had four priests who oversaw the 14 churches and the ancient Monastery of St. Mama. The antiquity and historical importance of this archaeological site could not be overestimated. For instance, the church of St. George was built on a pre-Christian temple dedicated to the storm god Hadad, the principal deity worshiped by the Arameans before converting to Christianity. Despite its priceless value, half of the city has been laid to waste and there is no longer any potable water and electricity available. This terrible humanitarian disaster of massive proportions has been completely ignored by the West.

H.E. Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, the Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama who oversees the towns of Sadad and Hafar, describesurgent need of help for the victims: “Our people are traumatized and are governed by the fear that there is no secure place in Syria left. They have been used for one week as human shields and they have lost all that they had built up in their hometown. On their urgent behalf, I make a plea to the international community for humanitarian aid. During this winter, those who left but especially those who wish to return to their homes are in dire need of food, water, clothes, medicine and money to rebuild or restore their destroyed houses.”

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The facts speak for themselves. Converting, looting or eliminating native Aramean Christians (and other vulnerable minorities that do not subscribe to Islam) is a driving objective of the Jihadists. For example, only one month previously the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant invaded the northern Syrian city al-Raqqa. There they entered the two churches of the Christians, constituting 10% of the local residents, destroyed the crosses, burned the altars, caused irreparable damage to all sorts of properties and raised the black flag of al-Qaeda. A similar invasion took place on 4 September in a series of attacks against Maaloula, an Aramean Christian town 55 km north of Damascus where the Aramaic language of Jesus had also survived. However, its inhabitants have not returned home yet and it is only a matter of time that their Aramaic dialect will become extinct.

Christians and other minority groups are being uprooted from their homelands by intolerant Muslim forces. In the past decades, we have seen little to no rejection or opposition to such atrocities and war crimes from governments in the Middle East. Even in the West, politicians and the media have responded with deafening silence and indifference to the ongoing human rights violations against the endangered native populations. Many governments and media organisations are fearful of criticising the Islamists, but all to the detriment of the Christians and other vulnerable minorities.

The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”) sharply condemns disgraceful attacks against women, children and elderly civilians in defenceless towns like Sadad, and calls for urgent action to be taken by the international community. Mr. Daniel Gabriel, the WCA’s Human Rights and UN NGO Director, notes: “It is five to twelve, the extinction of native Aramaic Christianity in Syria is imminent. The time has come for politicians and reporters to fearlessly stand up for the truth, bring to justice the perpetrators of such cowardly crimes against humanity and those who support them, and help Syria’s Christians and other threatened minorities to stay in the land of their ancestors. The WCA urgently calls upon the United Nations Security Council, the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to adopt a Resolution on these war crimes.”





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