Christians Flee Violence in Syria

Militants Reportedly Going Door to Door

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ROME, MARCH 27, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Christians have fled from the Syrian town of Homs after their homes were attacked by Islamic groups with links to Al Qaeda. According to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) 50,000 or more have left Homs, which was home to one of the largest Christian populations in the country. 

On Monday ACN announced an urgent €80,000 ($107,000) aid package to provide food and shelter for the estimated 90% of Christians who have left Homs.

The exodus, mostly taking place within the past six weeks, according to news sources cited by ACN, speaks of an “ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians” by militant Islamic groups. 

Christians have taken refuge in surrounding villages, with some fleeing to mountains 30 miles outside the city.

According to ACN, Islamists have gone from house to house in the Homs’ neighbourhoods of Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan, forcing Christians to leave without giving them a chance to take their belongings.

ACN is also helping families affected by a car bomb explosion on Sunday, March 18, which targeted the Christian quarter of Aleppo, close to the Franciscan-run Church of St Bonaventure. 

Bishop Antoine Audo SJ of Aleppo told Aid to the Church in Need: “The people we are helping are very afraid.”

Speaking on Monday from Aleppo, the bishop added: “The Christians don’t know what their future will hold. They are afraid they will not get their homes back.

“It is very important that we do whatever we can to help the people.”

In his application for ACN aid, the bishop stated: “Please speed up the implementation of the project because of the difficult circumstances that Christians face in Syria.”

If the attacks continue, Syria could suffer the same fate as Iraq where Christians have plummeted from 1.4 million in the late 1980s to perhaps less than 300,000 today.