News / Middle East

    Syrian Christians Urge Pope to Work for Peace, Help Them Go Home

    Pope Francis listens to a speech as he meets Israel's Rabies David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef in Jerusalem, May 26, 2014.
    Pope Francis listens to a speech as he meets Israel's Rabies David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef in Jerusalem, May 26, 2014.
    Reuters
    Syrian Christians who fled a village near the border with Turkey after it was captured by Islamist rebels say they refuse to leave the country and urged Pope Francis to pray for them and help them return home.
     
    In March, rebels including fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front captured the majority-Armenian village of Kasab in the coastal province of Latakia, a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
     
    Thousands of people fled to the city of Latakia and accused hardline Sunni fighters of targeting Christians and desecrating holy sites. Rebels denied the accusations.
     
    Christians interviewed by Reuters said they hoped Pope Francis, who visited Bethlehem on Sunday, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, would pray for peace in Syria.
     
    "The Pope's visit is a holy one, we wish for him to work for peace and pray for peace in Syria," Father Miron Owadesyan said.
     
    The Argentinian pope made an urgent appeal for an end to Syria's war on Saturday at the start of his first trip to the Holy Land as pontiff.
     
    In the first days of the attack on Kasab, more than 1,500 people sought refuge in the Armenian Greek Orthodox church of the Virgin Mary in Latakia city 30 miles (49 km) away.
     
    Most of them have since moved and now only about 100 people are living in the 1,200-year-old-church, mainly surviving on donations and support from the government.
     
    Narik Louisian, a priest from Kasab, said he hoped the Pope would use his influence to help Christians in the Middle East who have felt threatened by violence and political turmoil.
     
    "[It is] our right as Christians to live in the East, the East is our land too," he said. "We are an inseparable part of the Holy Land."
     
    Tamar Minoknian, a 40-year-old housewife, said she wanted Pope Francis to help Syria's displaced Christians return to their villages. “We want him to help us return to our houses. We do not want aid, we just want to go back to our homes.”
     
    Latakia and neighboring Tartous provinces together form the Mediterranean heartland of the Alawite faith - the Shi'ite-derived sect of which Assad is a member.
     
    Many Alawites have remained loyal to the government throughout the three-year-old conflict which has killed at least 160,000 people.
     
    Syria's Christian community, about 10 percent of the population, is wary of the rising power of Islamist groups within the rebel movement, and only a small percentage of Christians have taken up arms.
     
    "I cannot live outside Syria, we were born here and we will die here," Nerneen Boinashikian, in her fifties, told Reuters while she was preparing lunch. "All that we want is to return to our homes. Enough destruction."

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    May 26, 2014 1:23 PM
    The Pope should press it on the West to understand that there are no two ways to make people live in peace. The only way is to allow people to self determination. Instigating strife in order to divert people from what we think is bad for them is not the right way to foster peace. It has meant war and destruction everywhere it has been used - Libya, Egypt, Ukraine and Syria. Having put the country in trouble for just too long to remove the hand of Iran from affairs in the Middle East has not helped, instead it has brought untold hardship to families while the people designated to be removed still sit pretty. Let the West show some understanding - hence godliness is out of their equation - have a rethink, after all the strategy has not worked to remove Assad, instead it has introduced a worse grade of terrorism that may institute it to statecraft and way of life out there, aggravating humanitarian situation, security and even climate.

    This is wrong. Let the West show some pity to the people that have suffered so much and allow Assad to transit this regime - if only for the safety of lives - especially of children and women. If change must be enforced, let us try economic and diplomatic strategy and see if it can reroute the region effectively. But let us stop the war NOW. It has become counterproductive in that it has yielded growth to islamist fundamentalism and terror instead. I don;t think that was what the original result was expected to be. And let us discountenance the negative input of the Arab Spring - I think it is the worst thing to happen to the Middle East in recent times.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.