WCC condemns destruction of monastery in Syria

WCC condemns destruction of monastery in Syria

“The world must support a real peace process in Syria now to stop these tragedies for peoples and cultures,” according to the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. He said the reports received of the destruction by so-called “Islamic State” of a fifth-century monastery near Homs, Syria, is – “a further expression of Islamic State’s extremist agenda of not only eliminating the members of religious minorities, but also all evidence of their presence and contribution to the history and culture of the region.”

Photos recently posted on social media sites associated with “Islamic State” show the destruction of Mar Elian monastery in the town of Qaryatain, near Homs, Syria. An estimated 1,800 Christians lived in Qaryatain before it fell to “Islamic State” on 6 August. Reports indicate that hundreds of civilians were taken captive, among them more than 180 Christians including Fr. Jacques Mourad, who was kidnapped earlier in May 2015. The captives were transferred to areas near Raqqa, the stronghold of “Islamic State” in northern Syria.

In the past year, “Islamic State” has captured thousands of people, and destroyed dozens of churches, religious shrines and places of worship as well as ancient archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq.

“Islamic State is conducting a war not only against Christians, but against anyone and anything that does not fit in their own narrow extremist worldview,” observed Tveit. “It is long overdue that the international community find the political will and the means to protect the religious and cultural diversity of Syria and Iraq against the depredations of ‘Islamic State’. The future political and social stability of the region depends on diversity.”

“Now is the time to stop the process that could lead to the disappearance of Christians and religious minorities from their ancient homelands and holy places,” Tveit added.