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Qamishli, Syria (Agenzia Fides) – The funeral of an Armenian Catholic priest, Hovsep Hanna Petoyan [also known as Father Hanna Bidu], and his father, Hanna Petoyan, took place this morning in Qamishli. The two were attacked and killed on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019 by unidentified gunmen as they traveled southbound from Hasaka province to Deir ez-Zor, in the north-east of Syria. Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo told Agenzia Fides Boutros Marayati,
“For us they are martyrs. And what happened to them is a confirmation that the war is not over here, as we had hoped”.
The funerals of the priest and his father were celebrated in the Armenian Catholic Church of St. Joseph, in the presence of priests, religious, and faithful of all the Christian communities present in the area. Father Antranig Ayvazian, Episcopal Vicar of the Armenian Catholic community of Upper Mesopotamia and northern Syria presided over the funeral liturgy.
Father Hovsep, 46, was married and a father of three children, ordained a priest 5 years ago, was the priest of the Armenian Catholic community of Qamishli, in the northeastern Syrian province of Hassake. Archbishop Marayati to Fides,
“In the city of Qamishli, many Christian refugees also fled from Deir ez-Zor, when that city was devastated by war. He also carried out his pastoral work among them, and for a long time he also followed the projects implemented with the help of international groups to rebuild the church and the houses of the Christians in Deir ez Zor, destroyed by the war. For this reason he went to Deir ez Zor every two weeks to check the progress of the work. He had already carried out six trips to that city so dear to the memory of the Armenians, where there is the shrine of the martyrs of the genocide, also devastated during the conflict”.
At the time of the ambush, the priest and his father were travelling together with an Armenian deacon – wounded during the assault – and another person. The two killers had their faces covered and fled after the ambush. The priest’s father died immediately. Father Hovsep, wounded in the chest, was brought to a clinic in Deir ez Zor and then transferred by ambulance to a hospital in Hassakè, where he arrived already lifeless.
The city of Deir ez Zor is controlled by the Syrian army, but in the area there are also Kurdish forces and US military still operating. In the sub-district of al-Busayrah, an area where the ambush occurred, armed groups affiliated to the self-styled Islamic State (Daesh) are also concentrated, who yesterday claimed responsibility for the gunning down of the Armenian Catholic Priest and his father (but stating, erroneously, to have eliminated “two priests”). “The car in which the priest was traveling there was the inscription of the Armenian Church”.
Syrian state TV SANA called the killing of the Armenian Catholic priest and his father “martyrdom”, while the Kurdish media presented the resurgence of bloody attacks attributable to Daesh as an indirect consequence of the Turkish military intervention in Syria, which forced Kurdish militias operating in the area to review their strategies and suspend military operations against jihadist cells still present in the north-east of Syria.
According to the Kurds of the Rojava Information Center, Daesh jihadists allegedly carried out 30 attacks in the first ten days of November, with a 300 percent increase from their activity levels compared to the period prior to the Turkish military initiative in Syrian territory.
PHILIPPINES – Bishop of Marawi: “Video appeal of Fr. Chito: critical phase, we fear for the lives of the hostages”
Marawi (Agenzia Fides) – “Terrorists have sought contact with the military and the institutions. They released a video where Fr. Soganub Teresito, called Fr. Chito, one of the group of about 15 Catholic hostages, launches an appeal to President Duterte asking for the end of the bombings and the attack in Marawi. As foreseeable, militants are now in difficulty, they are with their shoulders against the wall.
We are happy to see that Fr. Chito, Vicar of Marawi, is alive, but we are afraid of the fate of the hostages, about 200 civilians in all, now used as human shields”: This is what the bishop of Marawi, Edwin de la Pena says to Agenzia Fides, expressing his concern for this delicate phase of the ongoing crisis in Marawi, a town on the island of Mindanao. After a week of fighting, the army has taken control of much of the city: the jihadists of the “Maute” group, affiliated with Isis, remain barricaded in 9 “barangay” (districts) out of 96 in Marawi. Half of the residents (about 100,000 people) have abandoned the city, but a few thousand civilians are trapped in the cross fire. According to official figures, 19 civilians have lost their lives, 13 soldiers, four police officers, and 61 members of the Maute group. Among the latter, six fighters are foreign, Indonesians and Malaysians.
“Hostages are hidden, who militants want to use to save their lives and flee, in a building in the city”, the bishop explains to Fides. “We are really in pain, we do not know what the army will do and how the terrorists will react. We have asked for the help of Muslim leaders in Marawi, our friends, while the whole Catholic population is gathered in prayer throughout the country”, he adds.
There is also a humanitarian emergency in the area: more than 40,000 internally displaced persons are in evacuation centers, and as many have found shelter and have been welcomed by relatives or friends in neighboring areas. Catholic communities and civil society associations have been mobilizing for the solidarity and support of refugees.
Jihadists fighting in the name of the Islamic State group (ISIS) are escalating attacks in the southern Philippines.
Jihadists fighting in the name of the Islamic State group (ISIS) are escalating attacks in the southern Philippines.
“Their influence is growing stronger and it is expanding,” Rodolfo Mendoza, a senior analyst at the Manila-based Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research told AFP, referring to IS.
He said the various local groups that had pledged allegiance to IS were “planning big operations, like bombings, attacks or assassinations”.
Such violence has plagued large areas of the southern Philippines for decades, as Muslim rebels have fought a separatist insurgency that has claimed 120,000 lives.
The violence has left the region one of the poorest in the Philippines, while allowing warlords and extortion gangs to flourish. Many of the predominantly Catholic Philippines’ Muslim minority live in the south. Read More
Despite the rain, this is a church in the Philippines is hungry for the Word of God. God bless these dear brothers and sisters! Please keep them in your prayers.
(Agenzia Fides) – Three of the Assyrian Christians in the valley of Khabur held hostage by jihadists of the Islamic State (Daesh) were subjected to capital punishment by their kidnappers. The video of the execution was released on the jihadi website. In the video, the three Assyrian Christians appear on their knees, dressed in the “usual” orange jumpsuits in a desert area, and are killed with gunshot wounds to the neck from three hooded executioners. Each of the three Assyrian, before being killed, identified themselves by repeating their names and village of origin: Audisho Enwiya and Assur Abraham – from the village of Tel Jazeera – and Basam Michael, from the village of Tel Shamiram.
After their execution, the video ends with three other Assyrians on their knees and in orange jumpsuits in front of the bodies of the three executed. They also reveal their names and village of origin, and one of them added in Arabic, pointing to the bodies of the three Assyrian already killed, “our fate will be the same as these, if you do not follow the correct procedures for our release”.
The execution – warn the creators of the macabre video – took place on the morning of 23 September, the day when Muslims commemorate the “Feast of Sacrifice” (Eid al-Adha).
The three murdered men were part of the group of about 230 Assyrian Christians that the jihadists of Daesh have held hostage since the end of February, when the jihad offensive reached the Christian villages in the valley of the river Khabur. The place of their detention in all probability is still in the al-Shaddadi area, stronghold of Daesh, 60 kilometers from Hassaké. The message conveyed in the video is clear and fierce: the ransom demanded for the release of Christian prisoners still has not been paid, and the executions will continue until the sum requested is paid.
In the following stages of the collective kidnapping, jihadists demanded 100 thousand dollars in exchange for the release of each hostage. Before the answers of those who declared the impossibility of collecting such exorbitant amount of money, negotiations were interrupted. The video with the execution of the three poor Assyrians increases the concern about the fate of Christians in Khabur – including women and children still in the hands of jihadists. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 08/10/2015)
- Pray for those who remain hostage to be freed.
- Pray for their courage and that they will endure.
- Pray for their families who are losing hope.
- Pray all may be comforted.
- Pray for strengthening of faith
- Pray for the lost
Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) – At least nine people have been killed in North Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in a new attack of the ADF-NALU, group of Ugandan origin that now calls itself Muslim Defense International (MDI).
According to a statement from the Centre d’Etude pour la Promotion de la Paix, de la Démocratie et les Droits de l’homme (CEPADHO), sent to Agenzia Fides, on Saturday, September 5, a commando of the ADF attacked some locations in the territory Beni. In Ntoyi a mother of 11 children was decapitated as she was returning from the fields; in Ngite other 4 farmers were found killed; in Mukida a couple, parents of seven children, were killed, in PK25 the bodies of two other people were found brutally murdered with machetes.
The CEPADHO fears that the toll is expected to grow because many farmers work in the fields and may have been victims of the assault of the ADF terrorists.
Local bishops and civil society (see Fides 26/05/2015) have repeatedly denounced the presence of this group which has now taken the form of a real jihadist organization. The members of the ADF, also known as MDI, who come from Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Sudan, Burundi, Central African Republic and Congo, have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians in the space of just under a year (see Fides 09/06/2015). (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 07/09/2015)
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – The killing of Christians by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria’s middle belt has become part of a jihadist movement to both steal the region’s natural resources and displace its Christian population.
According to Morning Star News, Muslim herdsmen working with jihadists groups have attacked and killed more than 1,500 Christians last year in the middle belt states of Kaduna, Taraba, Benue and Nasarawa. These attacks were not only in pursuit of resources, but were inspired by Islamist ideology, i.e., Fulani Muslims are using the conflict to kill Christians and intimidate any survivors into recanting Christianity in favor of Islam.
The overwhelming number of victims in land and other disputes between Christians and Muslims have always been Christians. In Taraba state, 70 percent of the victims of non-Boko Haram violence were Christians and seven percent Muslims; in Benue state, 88 percent of the victims were Christians and two percent Muslims and in Nasarawa state, 75 percent were Christians and 15 percent Muslims, according to a report subtitled “Non-Boko Haram violence against Christians in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria” .
John Danfulani, a Christian leader from southern Kaduna state, said that since 2011 Muslim Fulani attacks had killed 614 Christians, wounded about 1,200 others and destroyed 1,000 Christian-owned homes.
Danfulani said Christians in southern Kaduna were being killed by Muslims with impunity and that Christian casualties increased with each new Muslim attack.
“Everything points to the fact that our people are being used as sacrificial lambs.”
A court in Minya upheld the appeal filed by the defense of the four teenagers who were in detention for more than 40 days on charges of insulting Islam. The incident happened in a school in the village of Nasiriyya, near the town of Beni Mazar, in the Egyptian province of Minya.
The four were arrested for having appeared in a video for a few seconds, in which they mimed the scene of the slaughter of a faithful Muslim in prayer, in imitation of the horrific executions committed by jihadists of the Islamic State (IS).
The brief video, which represented in its own way an indictment against the atrocities committed by jihadists of the Islamic State, had incredibly sparked anger and false accusations of Islamist elements in the area, which forced local authorities to take action to restore calm, convening on 17 April, a meeting of “reconciliation” between Christians and Muslims, with the participation of imams and priests in the area.
The families of the boys had to pay a deposit of 10 thousand Egyptian pounds for the release of each of them. Even a professor of the school was accused of having the responsibility in recording the video and spreading it, which is why he was forced to leave the village of Nasiriyya with his family. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 28/05/2015)
‘We are going through a terrible moment’
Danger levels rose sharply in late April for northeast Syria’s isolated Assyrian Christians, caught for nearly three months now between Kurdish militias and Syrian army forces battling with militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State for control of Hassaka province.
“We are going through a terrible moment,” Syriac Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo told Fides News April 30. “The jihadists of the Islamic State attacked Hassaka for two days. They were warded off by the [Syrian] army and Kurdish militias. But we are cut off, like an island surrounded by jihadists from all sides.”
Some 1,000 Assyrian families had been forced out of their village homes along the Khabur River by the Islamic State in late February, sending them into exile in Qamishli and Hassaka city.
In addition, 242 Assyrian Christians captured during the attacks are still being held incommunicado, reportedly at al-Shaddadi, an IS stronghold bombed last week by the Syrian army. Church officials have identified all 93 women, 51 children and 98 men taken captive.
But after two months of behind-the-scenes negotiations through local intermediaries, church attempts to gain the release of the hostages were rebuffed by their IS captors.
According to Australia’s Archbishop Mar Meelis of the Assyrian Church of the East, who spoke to Newsweek on May 1, the IS jihadists demanded a ransom of US $23 million, or about $100,000 per person, to release their Khabur captives. The militants reportedly described the ransom as the jizya — a payment required under Islamic law for non-Muslims who refuse to convert to Islam.
In response, an Assyrian church leader told World Watch Monitor, “This is an amount beyond the capacity of a tiny church and community. These captives are poor people who depended on their low income as farmers.” The church’s counter-offer, which the cleric said was “a reasonable amount that the families can afford,” was rejected, leaving negotiations at a standstill.
Back on March 23, an IS video was released showing one of the Assyrian hostages reciting the Muslim shahada, or statement of faith, and declaring that he had voluntarily converted to Islam “without any pressure.”
“Yes, this man named Sargon became a Muslim for a few hours to save his life and get released,” an Assyrian cleric told World Watch Monitor. “He is now back in Qamishli, where his behavior is being discussed. So this is the reality of what he did.”
Assyrians’ existence threatened
As hard-fought land battles continued during March and April, dozens of the displaced Assyrian families began fleeing Hassaka to resettle abroad. At least 300 families have arrived in Beirut, where the Lebanese government has agreed to grant six-month visas to Assyrian Christians from Hassaka who apply through the church. Others escaped to refugee camps across the Iraqi border near Dohuk.
“The situation in Hassaka is bad, and very fragile,” Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana of the Assyrian Church of the East told World Watch Monitor. The clashes have now come close to the suburbs of Hassaka city, where the archbishops of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Syriac Catholic Church are headquartered. Only 800 Christian families remain in the province, he said.
“Assyrian Christians are facing a danger that threatens their existence in their historical regions,” Youkhana told the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights in Brussels on April 23.
Not only is Hassaka under the control of armed Islamist groups, he said, but Assyrians are being manipulated by the Assad regime, which presents itself as the only alternative to protect Syria’s threatened religious minorities. As an ancient Eastern-rite church, Assyrian Christians are linked ethnically with the Syriac and Chaldean Christians of Turkey and Iraq.
Heavy fighting in early May continued to revolve around the strategic town of Tel Tamar, where hard-pressed Kurdish and Assyrian Christian militiamen are outnumbered and poorly armed. “We are surrounded from three sides,” a militia sniper poised on a hilltop overlooking Tel Tamar told a Deutsche Welle reporter on May 5. “If IS wants to push into the town, they will probably be able to take it.”
The future of Hassaka’s Christians became increasingly precarious after Syria’s revolution took an overt Islamist turn in 2013, once the Assad regime had pulled most of its army forces out of northeastern Syria. Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, took the initial lead among a host of rival Islamist rebel groups vying to control Hassaka, only to be sidelined by Islamic State forces dominating the province by July 2014.
An Assyrian doctor working in a government hospital in Qamishli told World Watch Monitor in late March that it was impossible to trust any of the sides fighting for control of Hassaka province. “I don’t trust any of them. There is clear coordination between them. They are all in contact with each other. And who wins? The weapons industry,” he said.
In Beirut, Bishop Yatron Koliana of the Assyrian Church of the East sadly agreed. “We are fasting and praying that the governments of the world will not give weapons or facilitate things for the Islamic State and their allies,” he told World Watch Monitor. ”Sometimes we feel that Christians here are being sold for oil and gas. So we plead for prayers, that the big decision-makers will have mercy in their hearts to save us.”
“Any of the sides fighting here could stop it,” the doctor said. “But they don’t want to–they want to empty out all the Christians from here. Turkey has its fingers here, too. Without the Christians here, it will become like Afghanistan.” (World Watch Monitor)