On 28 March a coalition of extremist militias, led by al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, seized control of the provincial city of Idlib, North West Syria, from pro-government forces.
The take-over of the city has been accompanied by violence against minority communities, including Christians.
Two Christians, a father and a son, were reportedly murdered because they owned a shop that sold alcohol. In addition, a Greek Orthodox priest, Ibrahim Farah, has been abducted along with a small number of congregants from his church. It has been claimed that they are to be tried in an Islamic court established by the extremists. No details of charges or demands have yet emerged, beyond reports that Christians have been ordered to pay the ‘jizya’ tax or leave Idlib.
Idlib’s Christian community once numbered several hundred, but the majority had left prior to the recent offensive. Ibrahim Farah had refused to leave.
There are tensions within the coalition now in control of Idlib. One source claims that this includes differences over the treatment of Christians, with members of Ahrar ash-Sham opposing the more hard-line approach of Jabhat al-Nusra. However, both groups are known to be hostile to religious minorities and to be working to establish a Sunni Islamist theocracy in Syria.
There remains uncertainty about the situation of around 200 Assyrian Christians abducted in late February by Daesh (Islamic State) militants in Hassaka province, North East Syria. A total of 23 are known to have been released; it is assumed that the others remain in captivity.
Source: Middle East Concern
- Pray for the families of those who have been slain, that they will know the Lord’s comfort and ministering presence as they mourn.
- Pray that those abducted in Idlib, together with those abducted in Hassaka and elsewhere, will know His strength and protection, and will soon be released.
- Pray that violence will cease, peace will be restored and the clear rule of law will be applied equally for all in Syria.