At least sixty-three churches have been damaged or destroyed so far during four years of civil war in Syria, says the Syrian Network for Human Rights.
In a report, published earlier in May, the rights group, claims the Syrian government were responsible for almost two thirds of the attacks.
They blame opposition forces for 14 and Islamic extremist groups for seven (ISIS, six; Al-Nusra Front, one). Two are unattributed; the remaining 40 are blamed on the al-Assad regime.
Dr. Wael Aleji, a spokesperson for the Syrian Network for Human Rights says: “Christians and their places of worship have suffered as much as the rest of the Syrian people. Scud missiles, chemical weapons or barrel bombs do not differentiate between Christians and non-Christians.”
However, both extremist groups and government and opposition forces are accused of committing war crimes through “deliberate targeting” of churches, and not just “random” attacks. All three are also accused of breaching international law by using churches as military bases.
However, the picture is pretty complex. One example cited in the report of government troops deliberately desecrating and burning a church in Kasab, is being questioned by a local source who claimed the responsibility lay with the al-Nusra Islamist group.
“Christians have become trapped between the fire of the Assad government and the hell of extremist groups.”
Meanwhile, it is only ISIS which is accused of hauling down crosses from the tops of churches and breaking them. ISIS is also accused of burning four churches to the ground and turning two others into bases. Both ISIS and the al-Nusra Front are accused of ransacking churches and destroying religious icons.
“After the rise and expansion of terrorist groups … Christians have become trapped and squeezed between the fire of [the] Assad government and the hell of the extremist groups,” says Aleji.
The report accuses each party of “random and sometimes deliberate” attacks. But it is unclear whether destruction caused by shelling or mortars is an unintended consequence of a brutal war, while the destroying of crosses and burning down of churches appears to be more deliberate.
Source: World Watch Monitor
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