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Matthew Fisher: It’s open season on Christians in Syria and across the Muslim world   28/09/2013

Matthew Fisher, National Post Staff It seemed this weekend as if it was open season on Christians across the Muslim world. Seventy-eight Christians were slaughtered Sunday by twin suicide bombers at a church where I have attended services several times myself in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Less than 24 hours earlier a gang of Islamic militants from Somalia murdered at least 68 workers and shoppers, including two Canadians, at a mall in Kenya, allegedly shouting for Muslims to get out of the way so they could specifically kill Christians. Coptic Christians in Egypt also have been targeted recently by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Christians in large numbers have left their ancient enclaves in Iraq and the West Bank after churches there were blown up or Christians were threatened. The carnage had a special resonance in this predominately Christian town in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley where Syrian Christians have taken refuge after being attacked by extremist groups linked to al-Qaeda such as Jabhat al-Nusra. “If we stay in Syria, they will kill us. It is that simple,” explained 36-year-old Rami Sammaan, after celebrating mass with his wife, Sally, and her mother, father and sister in the packed pews of St. Elias Maronite Church. If we stay in Syria, they will kill us Sammaan crossed into Lebanon with his extended family last Christmas after his church in the war-ravaged Syrian city of Homs was destroyed. He went back to Syria briefly last month to pray during the annual saint’s day of his old church, reaching his hometown by a circuitous route well to the north of the border crossing near where he and his family now live. Sammaan’s father-in-law, Mousa Fahmi Issa, fled from the town of Hasaka, near Syria’s border with Turkey. Christians had been kidnapped there and held for ransom and crosses and other Christian symbols had been routinely destroyed, he said. “If someone comes to your house and says he will kill you, do you dance with him or do you flee? Issa said. “I feared my 12- year-old daughter Shames would be raped. All Syrian Christians are afraid. But some Christians cannot leave. They do not even have enough money for a bus ticket.” What followed was an intense family discussion in Arabic. The gist of it was that the West was naive to concentrate so much of its rage on Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad. “If Assad goes it doesn’t mean that it is over. It will only get worse,” Issa predicted as he, his wife and son-in law gloomily chain-smoked their way through a pack of cigarettes in a tidy room dominated by a bronze mural of the Last Supper. Sammaan interrupted Issa to ask: “Who ate the heart of a human being? It was not someone from the Syrian army, was it?” He was referring to a notorious video shot earlier this year in which a rebel leader allegedly executed a soldier and bit into his heart as his followers shouted “God is Great!” رابط


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