Priest recounts Islamist attack in Syria

A priest in Syria has given an eyewitness account of a jihadist action against his Christian parish there.

Speaking to the Fides news agency following a cross country escape with fellow Christians, Fr George Louis, a Greek Catholic priest who ministered in the village of Qara, described how the Christian community was targeted by Islamists after jihadist fighters forced the withdrawal of Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters on November 16.

Prior to the attack, Fr Louis said, the FSA had controlled Qara, but had maintained a peace and showed no desire to target villagers.

“On November 16, more than 3,000 jihadists entered the village, turning it into a battlefield,” Fr Louis said, adding that while many villagers immediately fled, many Christians did not.

“We took refuge in the church to pray….armed fighters entered with covered faces, long hair, not Syrians, it was not clear what nationality they belonged to.

“They said: ‘We want to kill you all, Christian dogs. And we will burn this idolatrous place’.”

The priest explained that only when one villager cited the Koran in defence of the Christians did the jihadists pull back, but then only to gain direction from an imam towards their next course of action. In that time, Fr Louis led his parishioners away and they fled the village, hiding from Islamists over the course of a four-day trek to reach safety in the village of Sadad, previously the site of an Islamist massacre of Christians.

“Maalula, Sednaya, Sadad, then Qara and Deir Atieh, now Nebek,” Fr Louis said, “the armed jihadists apply the same model: they target a village, invade it, kill, burn and devastate.”