Published: 14:15 GMT Standard Time - Monday 04 November 2013
“Greatest massacre of Christians in Syria”: dozens killed in Islamist siege
Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Syria
“These events which happened in Saddad are considered the greatest massacre of Christians in Syria… We ask if the terrorists are gone permanently, or if there is the possibility of a return for a second massacre… We cried out to the world and no-one heard us. Where is the Christian conscience?”
Dozens of people were killed when Islamist rebels besieged the Christian towns of Saddad and Haffar in Syria. As churches, homes and schools were looted and destroyed, 2,500 families fled, while 3,000 people, including children, were held as a human shield for a week.
|Churches were vandalised, looted and graffitied with insults against Christianity|
Militants from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front stormed Saddad and Haffar on Monday 21 October shouting “Allahu Akhbar” [“Allah is great”]. They set up sniper posts and launched a campaign of shelling, killing anyone they found in the streets. Children were crying in fear as the militants took over the towns.
One of our partners in Syria said:
1,500 families were held as hostages and human shield for a week, amongst them children, old men, young men, and women. Some of them fled… some were killed and some were threatened by the bullet, by strangulation, execution and with the destruction of their houses.
Estimates of the number of Christians killed during the siege of Saddad and Haffar range from 45 to 70; children were among the dead.
Thousands fled the violence, many with just the clothes on their backs. Those who took money, documents or other valuables were robbed.
Our partners helped Christian families to evacuate to neighbouring villages, the central city of Homs and the capital, Damascus. Barnabas sent funds to provide transport, blankets, food parcels and other essentials. We are helping 500 families in Saddad and 68 in Haffar.
Another senior church leader said:
We are very grateful to Barnabas Aid, because it is always there in the right time, especially in emergency situations. May God bless Barnabas Aid for being on the side of persecuted Christians.
On Monday 28 October, government forces recaptured Saddad and Haffar, enabling people to return. They came home to a scene described as “catastrophic” by one of our partners. Almost 40 bodies had been dumped in mass graves and had to be dug up to be identified. Around half of the buildings in Saddad had been destroyed;there was no power, water or telephone connection. The Christian population is in dire need.
Before the Islamist siege, the towns had been relatively safe and hundreds of internally displaced families had sought refuge there. The Christians had lived peaceably with their Muslim neighbours for decades and harmonious relations have continued during the civil war, even with the arrival of Christian families from elsewhere.
Saddad, a town that is mentioned in the Bible (as Zedad; Numbers 34:8; Ezekiel 47:15), and Haffar are around four miles apart; they are situated between Homs and Damascus.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Aid, said:
What has happened in Saddad and Haffar is utterly horrific, and yet this massacre has barely featured in the Western media. Is the murder of dozens of Syrian Christians so inconsequential? It is clear that our brothers and sisters in Syria need our help more than ever as their plight is ignored and they run out of refuges from the Islamist storm that is battering their communities.
If you would like to help Christians from Saddad and Haffar, please send a donation to the Middle East Fund to help Christians in Syria (project 00-1032).
If you prefer to telephone, dial: 0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. Please quote project reference Middle East Fund to help Christians in Syria (project 00-1032).
For a quick donation of £3.00 by SMS (see terms and conditions here) text Barnabas/1032 to 70007 (Please note: This facility is presently only available to UK supporters).
- Pray that all those who lost loved ones in the siege will receive comfort and support as they grieve.
- Pray for the children and all those who suffered acute emotional distress, that they will be reassured by the “everlasting arms” underneath them (Deuteronomy 33:27).
- Give thanks that Saddad and Haffar have now been liberated, and pray that the towns will be rebuilt quickly. Pray that those who have lost their homes will be accommodated elsewhere.