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Massacre of Christian village in Syria; almost 40 people killed

Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Syria

A Christian village in Syria was savagely attacked and almost 40 of its residents, including women and children, killed by opposition fighters, as UN investigators warned of increasing radicalisation among the rebels.

UN: "Very complicated distinction between the bad and the good rebels"
UN: “Very complicated distinction between the bad and the good rebels”
CC BY 2.0 / Freedom House

The village of Dweir on the outskirts of Homs, near the border with Lebanon, was invaded on 27 May.

One of our Syrian partners told us that two of his relatives in Dweir were severely tortured by the rebels, who broke some of their bones and started to burn their bodies before shooting them in the head.   

The villagers who managed to escape the onslaught fled to Raman district, where Barnabas Aid is providing them with aid.

Following the massacre, the Syrian army entered the village and heavy clashes with the rebel fighters ensued.

The following day, independent United Nations investigators warned that the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad is becoming increasingly radicalised and that the civil war is producing ever worse atrocities.

Paulo Pinheiro, who leads a team of 24 experts that have been documenting crimes committed during the conflict, said:

It was said the rebels were angels, but there is only a minority of fighters with a democratic history who believe in the Syrian mosaic and want a state for all. The majority of rebels are very far from having democratic thoughts and have other aspirations.

Barnabas Aid has been warning for some time about the Islamist agenda of an increasingly dominant section of the opposition.

In April, the Iraqi wing of al-Qaeda confirmed that it has links with the al-Nusra Front, which has become a leading rebel band, while al-Nusra’s leader pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda frontman Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Despite these alarming developments, Western powers have been increasing their support for the opposition. They have been providing non-lethal aid for some time, but are now moving towards supplying arms to the rebels.

Britain and France pushed the EU to lift its arms embargo with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague insisting that there would be “safeguards” to ensure that weapons “would only be supplied to the Syrian National Coalition for the protection of civilians”.

Last month, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a measure that, if backed by the House, would lead to the arming of the Syrian opposition with heavy weapons.

Senator John McCain has been one of the leading voices calling for the US to arm the rebels. He said on Friday (31 May), following a visit to the war-ravaged country, that he was "confident that they could get the weapons into the right hands”.

While not commenting on the position of Western governments, Mr Pinherio of the UN suggested that the matter was not so straightforward:

There is a very complicated distinction between the bad and the good rebels.

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    • Almighty God, we pray that You will protect Your people in the Holy Land. We pray especially for the congregation of a church in Gaza City, whose church compound was attacked with a small explosive device on 26 February. We give You thanks that the church, school, nursery and pastor’s house were undamaged and that a fi re that was lit under the pastor’s car was extinguished when Christians came outside to investigate. We pray that the congregation may stand firm for You in the face of the threatening message that was written on the wall facing the church gate: “We’ll get you soon, O worshippers of the cross.” We ask that there will be no further attempt to attack this church or others in the area. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 23 hours ago

    • Taliban militants attempted to attack a Christian-run day-care centre in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 28 March, saying it was “a church used to convert Muslims to Christianity”. The attackers mistakenly targeted the next-door building, which houses workers on an agricultural and de-mining project, instead; two Afghan civilians, one a young girl, died in the crossfi re. All five Taliban bombers were also killed in the raid on the heavily-secured compound. The day-care centre that they were attempting to target, which is used by expatriates, is said to hold Christian worship services on certain days. Ask the Lord to change the hearts of those who plan and carry out terrorist attacks against Christians and other targets in Afghanistan; pray that they will turn instead to Him. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Jul 2014 00:00

    • “He was always a light for Christ and he had a love and commitment that he expressed for the Afghan people because of that love for Christ.” The widow of Dr Jerry Umanos, an American doctor who was shot dead at the Christian-run hospital where he worked in Kabul, Afghanistan, spoke of her husband’s faith and ministry. Two visiting American Christians, father and son Gary and John Gabel, were also killed on 24 April when an Afghan security guard opened fire on the staff he was meant to be protecting. Pray for comfort for the grieving families of the three men, and ask the Lord to safeguard the future of the hospital, which provides much-needed medical care and also trains Afghan doctors and nurses. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Jul 2014 00:00

    • “We ask all Christians and members of other faiths to reconsider their own beliefs and join Hinduism.” Krishna Hari Baskota, secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister in Nepal, was speaking about the application process for a new identity card that will show citizens’ religious affiliation. Christians and members of other minorities will be subjected to greater scrutiny before obtaining the official documents and will be asked to reiterate their faith. One Christian rights activist said that the government is trying to discourage people from converting from Hinduism. Pray that the Nepalese authorities will not discriminate against Christians but will treat them on equal terms with the Hindu majority. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Lift up to the Lord a group of Christians in Pali village, Jharkhand state, India, who were attacked by Hindu extremists on two consecutive days in an effort to force them to convert to Hinduism. On 4 March, the offenders stormed into the home of Pastor Tilas Bedia, beat the Christians present and threatened to kill them if they continued to follow Christ. The following morning, a mob dragged 15 Christians from their homes, told them to convert back to Hinduism and beat them. The pastor and two others were paraded half-naked to the outskirts of the village. Adding insult to injury, a case of forcible conversion was subsequently registered against the pastor and three other Christians. Pray that the Lord will give them all the strength to stand firm in the face of such opposition. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Jul 2014 00:00

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