Syrian rebels have taken control of an historic Christian village near Damascus. A new report from a ministry worker confirms that rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad for control are imposing Islamic law, giving Christians the choice to convert or die.
(h/t Thereza B) Rebel forces led by al Qaeda-linked jihadists reportedly captured the Christian village of Maaloula, situated in the mountains just north of Damascus. It’s home to two of the oldest surviving monasteries in the country. The village is also known as one of the few places in the world where residents still speak Aramaic, which some scholars say is the language Jesus spoke.
Witness say Islamists burned churches and attacked homes, forcing hundreds of Syrian Christians to flee. Rebel forces reportedly entered the village last Wednesday after breaking through government roadblocks. On Saturday, President Bashar al-Assad’s troops entered Maaloula and battled rebel forces, “but they left when rebels started pouring into the village.
Syrian rebel fighters apparently executed three Christians fleeing the fighting in Maaloula this week, Britain’s Sky News reported. Hundreds of Christians held a funeral in Damascus for the men, who were cousins. Sky News reports the men were trying to escape the Christian town of Maaloula, which has been under attack by rebel troops.
The men reportedly were killed by forces with the al Qaeda linked Jabha al-Nour. Mourners say two of the victims had their throats cut and another was shot.
The report is from the says Syrian Christian refugees had been attacked by the rebels fighting in Syria, where Christians had been allowed to worship and live under Assad’s regime. The report comes after Republican Sen. John McCain’s recent trip to Syria, where he was photographed with two men who, according to Beirut news reports, were involved in kidnapping people from Lebanon just months ago.
The mandate to Christians by the rebels, linked to al-Qaida, is based on the Quran. “The Christian residents were offered four choices: 1. renounce the ‘idolatry’ of Christianity and convert to Islam; 2. pay a heavy tribute to the Muslims for the privilege of keeping their heads and their Christian faith (this tribute is known as jizya); 3. be killed; 4. flee for their lives, leaving all their belongings behind.” Some Christians “were killed, some fled, some tried to pay the jizya and found it too heavy a burden to bear after the rebels kept increasing the amount they had to pay, and some were unable to flee or pay, so they converted to Islam to save themselves.”
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