By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (BosNewsLife)– Minority Christians in Syria’s embattled city of Homs and surrounding areas were among those facing a major humanitarian crisis Saturday, March 3, but Christian aid activists told BosNewsLife they were trying to reach them.
The news came shortly after rebels of the anti-government Free Syrian Army said this week they were pulling out of the area, which has been devastated in a month-long siege.
“A major humanitarian relief effort is now underway to help Baba Amr residents”, including Christians, who are without power and running out of basic supplies in freezing weather conditions,” said Christian aid group Barnabas Fund.
The group told BosNewsLife that it is working through church partners on the ground in the Homs region to get food,clothing and medicine to Christian families in urgent need.”
Minority Christians have complained that they are among those being used as “human-shields” by anti-government forces to percent the army from retaking control over the region.
The Free Syrian Army blames the government for the situation.
SOME CAN LEAVE
“After negotiation, some, particularly women and children, were allowed to leave” earlier this week, Barnabas Fund. It said there was also concerns about church workers amid ongoing violence.
“On Wednesday, February 28, a bomb fell on the roof of the room of an 81-year-old female church worker, who is in charge of a home for the elderly in Homs,” Barnabas Fund said. She survived as she was not at home at the time, Christians said. There were no other reports of injuries in that attack.
Additionally, two bombs were reportedly also discovered in a church yard in Homs but they did not explode.
There is growing concern among minority Christians that there situation will get even worse if Syria’s president is toppled.
“While I am relieved that the withdrawal of anti-government forces from Baba Amr [area] provides the opportunity for a respite for some of the suffering residents of that city, I fear that the crisis in Syria is only going to intensify,” Barnabas Fund International Director, Patrick Sookhdeo, told BosNewsLife.
“Foreign military intervention could lead to a long and protracted war in which Christians, as perceived supporters of President Assad, would be particularly vulnerable,” he added.
“They are already suffering abuse and violence at the hands of the Free Syrian Army. Today we have a window of opportunity to alleviate the distress of the Christian families who have been trapped in Homs.”
However many Christian families reportedly choose to leave Syria, seeking refuge in neighboring Lebanon. We know of what happened in Iraq and so we had better leave before we are killed,” Barnabas Fund quoted one Christian official as saying, speaking apparently on condition of anonymity.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein and the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Christians became the target of Muslim extremists. Iraq’s Christian community has seen kidnappings and killings, and many churches were attacked. Hundreds of thousands of Christians fled to Syria, where they now face similar challenges.
“The same pattern is now starting to emerge in Syria” with terror group al-Qaeda believed to be coming into the country and killing Christians, Barnabas Fund said, adding that Christians are also being kidnapped by Muslim groups.
And, with international pressure mounting on President Assad’s regime, the possibility of another Western military campaign in the Middle East is increasing, though so far Russia and China have blocked United Nations resolutions that could speed up such military action.