For immediate release
By Reinhard Backes, ACN International
Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada
ACN, Montreal – March 19, 2014 – In spite of an uncertain future, Christians in Syria want to stay. This was the message conveyed by the Melkite Greek-Catholic Archbishop of Homs, Hama and Yabrud, Jean Abdo Arbach, when he visited the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN). In the Archbishop Abdo Arbach’s exact words: “We Christians are living in fear, the future is uncertain, but we want to stay in our homeland.”
Despite reports to the contrary, the 61-year-old native Syrian said, 20,000 Christians of various denominations currently live in Homs close to the northern Border of Lebanon, and about 200,000 in the Homs region. Many of the faithful, including Melkite, Greek-Catholic, Syrian-Catholic, Maronite, Greek-Orthodox and Orthodox, have now returned to the city of Homs, according to the Melkite Greek-Catholic Archbishop.
Remaining Christians are made to knuckle-under to rules
“The situation in and around Homs is calm. Government troops have almost complete control over the region and the rebels control four to five districts. The main fighting is taking place in the cities of Yabrud and Hama,” according Archbishop Abdo Arbach, who intends to stick it out in Homs. He claims that the news coming from the north of Syria, which is controlled by the rebels, is alarming. According to this, Christians are made to knuckle under to rules. Archbishop Abdo Arbach says: “Firstly Islamic law is to be applied, secondly all Christian symbols which are publicly visible are to be destroyed and thirdly Christians who wish to remain will in future have to pay a special tax.”
In the presence of the ACN Executive President, Baron Johannes Heereman, the archbishop expressed his gratitude for the organisation’s support: “Aid to the Church in Need’ in particular has done much to ensure that we can regularly support many families, the parishes and priests. For the faithful it is important that their priests and their Bishop bear the suffering and persevere like everyone else.”