ASIA/SYRIA - Minorities and civilian victims of armed Salafist gangs: No to "religious war"

Kusayr (Agenzia Fides) - In Kusayr, a large village near Homs, on the border with Lebanon the ethnic minorities and religious such as Alawites, Christians, Shiites have been subjected to violence and atrocities perpetrated by armed Sunni groups that have taken their revenge . This is what Fides sources in the diocese of Homs report. The Christian family Kasouha lost many of its members, killed cold bloodedly. Killings and kidnappings are carried out in retaliation on behalf of militant Sunni Islamists, who had ancient disputes and who now present themselves as "factions of resistance". These gangs "are trying to resurrect the old intra-community clashes or to bring a sectarian war against the minorities who do not join the opposition", explains a Fides source. The Christian population of Kusayr, after several massacres and attacks, fled. Christian buildings were destroyed or burned after being looted. The house of the local parish priest, Father George Louis was hit by four mortar rounds, was completely destroyed. According to local Christians, Christians’ movable and immovable property have already been redistributed to Sunni Muslim families. In many places, the civilian population – explains the Fides source - is caught up in crossfire. Civilians have suffered pressure and violence. The protagonists of civil life have been a favorite target of armed resistance: taxi drivers, street vendors, civil administration officials have suffered undue violence to force them to withdraw from civic life and cripple state institutions. Repeated assaults have forced schools to close. Minorities are victims of constant abuse: Car and mobile homes confiscated, men, women and children are taken hostage and only released with a ransom. The real risk - notes Fides source - is that the noble goals proclaimed by the Syrian opposition are engulfed by Islamism, because of the presence of armed groups who have the sole purpose of creating a sectarian war similar to that of Lebanon. Many Christian areas - explain the Fides sources - even in the city of Homs, "have become a target for revenge for the fact that Christians and other minorities had not joined the opposition". In the armed opposition, "there are different factions, independent of each other, with different motivations and goals. It is no longer a secret that the Salafis are active in many places, particularly in Homs. Christians are not victims of a systematic persecution, because the factions are not all Salafists. It must be said that the majority of Muslims in Syria denounce the Salafists and the distances from Wahhabism". "The purpose of these armed groups is to encourage minorities to arm themselves for the outbreak of a religious war. But this reaction has not happened: the minorities have not armed themselves and have not succumbed to the logic of violence", concludes the source. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 02/04/2012)