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Hundreds of Christians at risk in northwestern Syria

In Syria, the threat of the Coronavirus pandemic, looms over a country still devastated by the war years. The northwestern province of Idlib continues to endure armed conflict involving the government's army, Russian troops, anti-Assad jihadist militias and Turkish military units.


In the Oronte valley, in the three villages Knaye, Yacoubieh and Gidaideh – about 50 km from Idlib – hundreds of Christians are still there together with priests Hanna Jallouf and Luai Bsciarat, both Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land, who remained to carry out the pastoral work in that territory that is still subject to the domination of the jihadist militants of Tahrir al Sham, opponents of the Syrian government, Agenzia Fides reported on Tuesday.

 Over the last few days, the military conflict in the area has entered into a semi-truce, mainly because of the precautions taken by the various parties involved to avoid contagion from Covid-19, but above all because of the ceasefire agreement negotiated at the beginning of March between Russia and Turkey, forces that in the field of conflict support respectively the Syrian government army and the anti-Assad militias.

Recently, Turks and Russians have agreed to patrol the M-4 highway jointly , a strategic communication route still controlled by jihadist militants.

While tactical movements of the troops in the field continue, Father Hanna Jallouf has issued a request for concrete solidarity, supported by the Italian “Association Aiutiamo la Syria (Aiulas) Onlus,” to be implemented in the days of the Easter feast, to help the inhabitants of the Oronte valley perceive “that Christ has risen for them also and they are not abandoned by the universal Church.”

In his letter of request, issued by “Aiutiamo la Siria”, Father Hanna briefly outlines the context in which he and Father Luai Bsciarat continue to carry out their pastoral work: “We work in the north of battered Syria. (…) We serve the Christian community that has remained here in the villages of the Orontes; there are about 210 families (almost 600 people) who belong both to the Catholic Church, and also to the Armenian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Church. We are the only religious, out of all the clergy who were in the Idlib Province before the war, who remained.”

The mission of the two priests leads them to help families with “different needs: food, electricity, water, schooling for children.” And the form of support they put in place for Easter will consist in the simple distribution of 25 euros to each family, this includes some “35 Muslim families already helped by the Church.”

In October 2014 Hanna Jallouf, parish priest of Saint Joseph in Knaye was captured along with some of his parishioners by a group of militant jihadists of al-Nusra. His kidnapping came after a recent visit to the Islamic Court, where he had gone to report harassment and abuse. Father Jallouf, and later his parishioners, were released within a few days.


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Photo is courtesy of Flickr.



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