Islam

The Stuff of Nightmares: Christians Forced from Homes in Syria’s Kassab

Eyewitness Reports of Violent Expulsion of 2,500 Armenian Christians from Historic Syrian Town

By Lela Gilbert

DAMASCUS, April 14, 2014 (Zenit.org) – An Armenian friend on Facebook alerted me to the tragic story of Kassab, Syria: On March 21, Sunni rebels violently expelled around 2,500 Armenian Christians from their picturesque and historic town.

Early that Friday morning, Kassab was violently attacked, its churches desecrated, its families driven out. Since then, Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists have occupied the town’s abandoned homes and businesses.

A large number of the terrified residents fled – mostly on foot – about 35 miles to Latakia, a Syrian Army stronghold. With a sizable Christian population, Latakia has struggled to provide them with shelter and sustenance.

The image of frightened families running for their lives with their children, their elderly and their disabled is the stuff of nightmares.

Although much of Syria’s Christian population is comprised of Syriac, Maronite and Eastern Orthodox believers, some 70,000 Armenians have long been part of the faith’s colorful tapestry. And though they have received little attention during the country’s civil war, thousands have had to flee, some 10,000 to Armenia itself.

As Kassab’s story became more widespread, eyewitness reports started to appear:   

“Before sunrise, we woke up to the horror of a shower of missiles and rockets falling on our town. Thousands of extremists crossed the borders towards our town. Missiles were fired from Turkey to destroy beautiful Kassab and to celebrate the approach of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Kassabtsi heroes defended the town with their simple hunting weapons…”

 “Two men, Minas Soghomonian and Joseph Kilaghbian, who called their own homes were greeted by militants who said, ‘We are enjoying your food’…. Another displaced Kassab resident, Paren Hovsepian … was told by the intruders, in Turkish, that he had nice furniture.”

We had to flee only with our clothes. We couldn’t take anything, not even the most precious thing – a handful of soil from Kassab. We couldn’t take our memories…”

Particularly infuriating to Kassabs displaced families was the report that Turkish soldiers, who were supposedly guarding the nearby border, did nothing to stop the invading rebels.

The Turkish government adamantly denies complicity in the attack on Kassab, but Armenians have not forgotten historic massacres at the hands of Turks, who decimated their communities in the early 20th century.

Kassabs residents were not only expelled from their homes in 1909. They were driven out again in 1915, during the infamous genocide, when as many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed.

The image of frightened families running for their lives with their children, their elderly and their disabled is the stuff of nightmares. And for me, that scenario was particularly disturbing, because I was already focused on an eerily similar story, but from another time and place.

As the Kassab reports began to emerge, I was reading the oral histories of two young Polish Jews, each of them fleeing, on foot, from the Germans in the early 1940s.

My interest in these Jewish teenagers was personal. One of them became a physician in America. Only recently had I learned that, as a youth, Dr. Joseph Rebhun jumped off a train to Auschwitz, was shot in the head and somehow survived.  

His story mattered to me because, years later, this same Dr. Rebhun saved my life in a California hospital.

The other young refugee whose story I was reading would become his wife, Maria.

In their separate accounts, each of these young Jewish survivors described the terror that gripped them while running from German bombs and hiding from live gunfire. They spoke of summoning all their strength to help weakened siblings and elderly parents to a safe haven. They related the desperation of mothers carrying infants while struggling to protect toddlers.

As I read, I breathed in the grateful thought, Thank God those terrible days are over.

Then I heard about Kassab.

Clearly, such terrible days aren’t over at all. Not for Syria’s war-ravaged population. Not for Kassab’s Armenian Christians. Not as long as there are bloodthirsty killers inflicting devastation anywhere in this troubled world.

As these stories interwove in my thinking, I recalled a famous quote from Adolf Hitler. 

In 1939, when he announced his plan to liquidate Poland’s Jews, he cynically remarked – as if to establish a prototype for his “final solution” –  “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” 

On April 24, millions of Armenians worldwide will, indeed, speak of that annihilation. Genocide Memorial Day takes place every year on that date, in remembrance of the million and a half victims who died between 1915 and 1923.  

In Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, hundreds of thousands will carry flowers to be placed around the genocide memorial’s eternal flame.

This year in particular, as April 24 approaches, maybe we should make a point of remembering the Armenians. And the Jews. And Kassab.

Along with lighting a candle in the window, as we offer up a prayer for a better world, perhaps we should also quietly repeat that simple vow: never again.

***

Lela Gilbert is author of “Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner” and co-author, with Nina Shea and Paul Marshall, of “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians.” She is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute and lives in Jerusalem. For more, visit her website:www.lelagilbert.com. Follow her on Twitter@lelagilbert. This article first appeared on the F

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Dutch Missionary Priest in Syria Shot Dead: Stayed With Christians Unable to Evacuate Homs

ZENIT UPDATE HERE 4/8/14      ROME REPORTS VIDEO HERE

ROME, April 07, 2014 (Zenit.org) – A priest helping Christians find shelter in Syria’s Old City of Homs has been murdered. Dutch Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt was shot twice in the head this morning, April 7, by an unknown sniper who killed him while he tended his small garden.

Speaking from Syria, fellow Jesuit Father Ziad Hillal told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need: “Father Frans was apparently killed execution-style with shots to the head. We have received a phone report from a Christian who was with him in the Old City.”

The 75-year-old Van der Lugt, who had worked in Syria since 1967, had been looking after 89 Christians trapped in the Old City who had sought shelter in an old monastery.

The number fell to around 20-25 in February 2014 after a three-day truce between warring sides allowed people to leave the Old City, but Fr. Hillal reported that the Dutch priest had remained to take care of those who could not leave.

Fr. Hillal accompanied ACN officials to speak to EU politicians about the situation in Homs. The priest explained why some Christians had remained behind in the Old City. He said: “The UN representatives were urgently required to leave Homs and go to another city, so we had to stop abruptly before finishing the evacuations. Father Frans and the remaining 20-25 Christians in the city did not manage to leave in time.”

Fr. Hillal spoke with Father van der Lugt, via Skype, from Brussels, and discussed, among other things, the possibility of a modest celebration of the Dutch priest’s birthday. He was due to turn 76 on April 10.

Fr Hillal said: “For me, [Fr van der Lugt] represents Christ in the world who is willing to lay down his life for his friends, who always gives us hope. He always asks how I am and does not talk much about himself.” He added: “He was a ray of joy and hope to all those trapped in the Old City of Homs, waiting for yet another UN permission to evacuate.

“God have mercy on us, who could not save him from sniper fire.”

Fr. Hillal also said that at present it is not possible to reach the Old City to recover Fr van der Lugt’s corpse.

Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries.www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)

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Will Islam Accept America?

by Steve Ray on December 29, 2013

I just found this clipping in my stack of papers. In a USA Today letter written by Dan Wolf (9/29/09) he responds to an article entitled “Will Americans accept Islam?” I think his comments are brilliant so I am reproducing his letter here:

The question should be, “Will Islam accept America?” Today the answer to that question appears to be no.

Our forefathers understood the need for separation of church and state. Religious tolerance was imperative in our country’s creation. They also realized that society much have a moral foundation to retains its liberties. Our forefathers realized that for a people to remain free, they needed to understand the languages of reason and faith. 

This is not true of Islam, where religion and the government rule are professed to be one. This is a direct threat to our representative form of government and our religious freedom, regardless of whether your beliefs are Christian, Jewish , Hindu, Buddhist, pagan or atheistic.

The issue is not America’s bigotry toward Islam, but Islam’s hostility toward America’s core values.

One thing I would add. Many European countries opened their doors wide to immigrants. Most of the immigrants have assimilated into European culture. Almost all. Muslims in general do not. For a clear example just Google “Sweden-Muslim-Integration” and read some of the articles how their immigration policies, the most lenient and accepting in the world, have been rewarded with riots and refusal to integrate. If we think Islam is not bigoted toward our Western forms of government, then think again. 

Sure, you may be friends with some Muslims or may work with a few who seem like nice and decent folks – and many may be. But Islam flows deep in the Muslims psyche and watching Europe will inform us what will happen when Muslims gain ground in America. Water and oil do not mix. You can shake them up for a brief uncomfortable integration, but soon they inexorably separate again.

You may want to read my article “Living with Muslims: Prepare for the Skyline of the Future.”

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Christians Targeted by Rebels in Syria

December 8, 2013

DAMASCUS (AP) – Syrian Christians offered prayers Sunday for a group of more than a dozen nuns and orphanage workers held by rebels for nearly a week, fueling fears in the minority community that they are being targeted by extremists among the fighters seeking to oust President Bashar Assad. The seizure of the 12 Greek [...]

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Save Syria, Church on it’s Knees Petition Drive

December 5, 2013

   America is supporting the “rebels” who are not rebels at all but radical Muslim insurrectionists mainly from other countries like Iran. They are routinely kidnapping and slaughtering Christians. Just last week a convert full of nuns were all kidnapped.  As a country to we should be defending the Christians and doing all we can [...]

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When Muslims Take Over your Home Town

November 3, 2013

If you are curious about what happens when Muslims get in a position of power, you may be interested in watching the short video. All that I have to say is “Wake up America!” Taking over her Home Town

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Immoral Silence regarding Slaughter of Christians Around the World

October 8, 2013

Janet and I have been to parts of the world where it is dangerous to be a Christian: India, southern Philippines, Muslim countries, China, Egypt and more. It is distressing that the free world is silent about this massive persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope their plight is made known and [...]

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St. James, Slayer of Muslims (Moors)

September 19, 2013

Sure sounds politically incorrect, eh? But in Spain – especially at Santiago de Compostela – a city dedicated to St. James – that is a title of St. James, one of Our Lord’s twelve apostles. Spain has had a rough history with Muslims invading their land. They fought back and eventually pushed the Muslim Moors [...]

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Link Now Available: Muslims and Christians on Catholic Answers Live

September 13, 2013

Here is the link to the show I did about the Persecution of Christians and Living with Islam. I drew a lot from my experience in Israel and the Middle East, India, the Philippines and more. The Questions I asked are below. For more options for listening, click here. Here is an audio of a [...]

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And Speaking of Muslims, Here’s An Excellent Article in Catholic World Report

September 12, 2013

Ignatius Press publishes and excellent on-line publication called Catholic World Report. I suggest everyone sign up for their weekly issues dealing with all issues pertinent to Catholics and the real world. It is fair, hard-hitting and truthful. In this week’s issue there is an article written by Michael Coren entitled “Christianity, Islam and a Deadly [...]

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Against Bombing Syria

September 7, 2013

Greetings from Jerusalem. Please contact your Senator and Congressmen to say NO to a strike on Syria. The rebels are NOT freedom fighters but radical Muslims who are slaughtering Christians and assassinating every opponent. I watched a video here of a rebel killing and eating the heart of an Syrian soldier. Have you seen the video [...]

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Monday’s Shows Archived: 1) Raising a Catholic Family, 2) Living with Muslims

August 27, 2013

Monday was a busy day with two radio shows. You can listen to them here: Sean Herriott’s Show on Relevant Radio: Raising a Catholic Family in Today’s Secular Culture Al Kresta Live’s show on Ave Maria Radio and EWTN. It is the last half hour of the one hour show: Living with Muslims

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Today on Al Kresta Live Steve Discusses “Living with Muslims”

August 26, 2013

I’ve been to Israel over 100 times. My best friends are Palestinian Christians who make up only 1.5% of the population. They are stuck between two huge cultures: Jewish and Muslim. Like a small pebble they get hit and squeezed between the two huge boulders.  Today we will discuss what it is like to be [...]

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The Good News about Egypt from it’s Coptic Patriarch, Leader of Egyptian Christians

July 5, 2013

Coptic Patriarch Hopeful After Egyptian President Deposed Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak Believes Country is Now On The Right Track By Junno Arocho Esteves CAIRO, July 04, 2013 (Zenit.org) – Patriarch of Alexandria of the Catholic Copts Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak expressed his support for the ouster of Mohamed Morsy as president of Egypt by the Egyptian [...]

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Congressman Attacks “Anemic” US Response to Christian Persecution

June 25, 2013

Rep. Frank Wolf, co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, urges the appointment of an envoy to protect religious minorities. by CNA/EWTN NEWS  06/21/2013  WASHINGTON — Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., has criticized the U.S. government’s “anemic and at times outright baffling” response to the persecution of Christians in the Mideast, urging the appointment of an envoy [...]

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High Fashion in the Muslim Middle East – Twin Towers Fashionwear

June 4, 2013

Sent from Tim Staples: HYPOCRISY  IS ALIVE AND WELL: High Fashion  in the Mosques That’s OK, just don’t burn or deface the Koran or draw a picture of Mohammed!! Every day shirts like this are mass produced, marketed and sold by street vendors throughout the Middle East and it’s  ”Simply  OK.” The  mass-murder of 9-11 [...]

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