|Maalula. St. Teqla Monastery (Photo credit: Hovic)|
ASIA/SYRIA - Churches devastated and icons desecrated in MaalulaMaalula (Agenzia Fides) - After the reconquest of the Christian village of Maalula - 55 km northeast of Damascus - by the Syrian government army, the images and descriptions released by government sources and international news agencies also document the devastation committed against Christian places of worship during the four months in which the city was under the occupation of the rebel militias. In particular, serious damages were carried out against the Greek-Melkite shrine of Mar Sarkis, where the church is destroyed, the floor is covered with religious objects, images and sacred books are damaged, the icons kept in the sacristy are missing and there are no bells or the cross surmounting the dome of the Greek-Melkite monastery. The sanctuary, founded at the end of the fifth century, is dedicated to Saints Sergius and Bacchus, Roman soldiers martyred for their faith under the Emperor Galerius. (A.D. 250-311).
Before being devastated by the civil war, the village of Maalula - which now appears uninhabited – was inhabited by 5 thousand Syrians, the vast majority were Christians (Greek-Catholic and Greek-Orthodox). The reconquest of Sarkha, Maalula and Jibbeh is the result of the offensive with which the Syrian government army took control of almost all of the region of Qalamun. In this offensive the Syrian military units are supported by the Lebanese Shiite militia of Hezbollah. The three operators of the Hezbollah television station al-Manar TV were killed by rounds fired by snipers while they were documenting the reconquest of Maalula. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 15/04/2014)
London (Agenzia Fides) - Minorities in Pakistan, whether they are ethnic, religious or political, are victims of hatred, discrimination, prejudices that make their life a living hell: this is what was expressed in a new study commissioned and published by the "British Pakistani Christian Association" (BPCA), which gathers the Pakistani emigrants in the United Kingdom, Europe and other countries in the world. The text sent to Fides Agency, titled "The Targeting of 'Minority Others' in Pakistan", presents an analysis of the policies implemented in the country in recent decades and contains numerous testimonies as proof of the arguments expressed.
"Many of the state and non-state decisions and activities have facilitated actions that aim to target minorities like Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus, Baluchi, Hazara Shiite, Sikhs and many others", notes the study, citing, in particular, the "blasphemy law " as one of the main instruments of abuse: it is often used as a "trap" for Christians and Hindus.
The authors of the study - Desmond Fernandes, a specialist on the educational system in Pakistan and Nathaniel Lewis, a researcher of the BPCA - cite the numerous interventions of UN bodies such as the Council for Human Rights.
Among the testimonies cited there is that of the young Christian Samson Barkat from Karachi, the only Christian to have passed the entrance test among the Police cadets. Some Muslim cadets, his companions, began to provoke him, because of jealousy, in order to force him to resign.
In January 2014 while Samson was listening to Christian religious songs in his car, he was approached by some cadets who started beating him. One of them pulled out a few pages of the Koran from his pocket, tore the pages and then started accusing him of blasphemy.
Examples of abuse against minorities are frequent cases of rapes regarding Christian and Hindu girls and forced Islamic marriage: the latter cases are those of Komal Yousaf, a Christian 15 –year-old raped, forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim, and that of a 19-year-old Christian Sobia, from Lahore, who was kidnapped and forced to Islamic marriage with a wealthy Muslim, in whose house she was working as a waitress. The two were rescued by the NGO "World Vision in Progress" (WVIP). "Muslims in Pakistan believe they can use young Christian girls who belong to religious minorities as their consumer goods", said the leader of WVIP, Farroukh Saif. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 15/04/2014)
|Damascus (Photo credit: sharnik)|
Damascus (Agenzia Fides) - A child died, 61 people were injured: children, parents and teachers. This is the tragic toll of the missile which hit the Armenian Catholic school in Damascus, in the historic district of Bab Tuma, in the old town, where there are many churches and Christian schools. "This morning, around 7.30 am" says father George Bahi, a priest of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate of Damascus to Fides Agency "a missile fell on the crowd of children, parents and teachers who were waiting for the school to open. One child died and 61 children and adults were injured. Rescuers arrived immediately and the injured were taken to three hospitals in the area. We are all shocked by what happened". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 15/04/2014)