In spite of an uncertain future, Christians in Syria do not want to leave. This was the message of a local Catholic leader, who said, "We Christians are living in fear, the future is uncertain, but we want to stay in our homeland."
The statement came from the Melkite Greek-Catholic Archbishop of Homs, Hama and Yabrud, Msgr. Jean Abdo Arbach, in an interview with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Despite reports to the contrary, the 61-year-old native Syrian said, 20,000 Christians of various denominations currently live in Homs close to the border with Lebanon and about 200,000 in the Homs region.
Many of the faithful, including Melkite, Greek-Catholic, Syrian-Catholic, Maronite, Greek-Orthodox and Orthodox, have now returned to the city of Homs, according to the prelate.
"The situation in and around Homs is calm. Government troops have almost complete control over the region and the rebels control only four to five districts.”
“The main fighting is taking place in the cities of Yabrud and Hama," said the archbishop, who is committed to staying in Homs.
“For the faithful it is important that their priests and their bishop bear the suffering and persevere like everyone else,” he added.
He reported that news coming from the north of Syria, which is controlled by the rebels, is alarming.
"Islamic law is to be applied, while all Christian symbols which are publicly visible are to be destroyed. Also, Christians who wish to remain will in future have to pay a special tax."
With picture Melkite Greek-Catholic Archbishop of Homs, Hama and Yabrud, Msgr. Jean Abdo Arbach (© ACN)
Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.