ASIA/SYRIA - The Jesuits: "Christians have fled from Homs, not thrown out by Islamists"

Homs (Agenzia Fides) - The faithful Christians living in the Bustan Al Diwan and Hamideh neighborhoods, in the city of Homs, have left the area and fled on their own initiative because of fear and conflict and were not forced to leave their homes because of threats on behalf of Islamist militia: this is what is reported to Fides by the Jesuit community of Homs. In past days, some sources in the Orthodox Christian community had told Fides that some Christian families in the two districts had been thrown out by militant Islamists. Other sources in the Middle East countries have repeatedly spoken of the militant Islamic extremists travels from Libya, Iraq and other nations toward Syria, with the aim to infiltrate in the ranks of the Syrian Army of liberation. The Jesuits of Homs told Fides that "as far as we know, the Christians in the city of Homs have not been threatened and forced to flee their homes". "There were some incidents – they explain - where houses left empty (by Christians) were occupied by displaced families. But when the owners returned, their homes were given back in a peaceful manner. One of the imams of the area – they add - apologized to the priest of the Jesuit church, because of these unfortunate incidents". The Christian areas of Homs, note sources of Fides, are at the center of the crossfire between army and rebels. In Homs there are about 1,000 Christians. A year ago, before the start of the fighting, there were in town, on the whole, 160 thousand faithful and four Bishops of various denominations. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 26/3/2012)