Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Death of Catholic priest confirmed by the Vatican

Today the Vatican confirmed that a Roman Catholic priest was killed in Northern Syria. A statement released by the Vatican claimed that the circumstances surrounding Father François' death were not clear and that the incident occurred on the 23rd of June. Father François Murad was believed to have been killed by jihadist militants in the town of Ghassaniya in the convent of the Custody of the Holy Land.

A video released online referred to the killing of a priest and a bishop, showed 2 prisoners being executed by rebels however, following close analysis of the video, neither victim could be identified as Father François.

According to eye witnesses in the convent, Father François was killed when attempting to stop rebels from ransacking the monastery and attacking the nuns. Several sources claim that the monastery was attacked by rebels linked to Jabhat al-Nusra.

There have been reports increasing attacks on religious sites of minorities. The Syrian conflict has increasingly become sectarian. Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch stated that "Syria will lose its rich cultural and religious diversity if armed groups do not respect places of worship. Leaders on both sides should send a message that those who attack these sites will be held accountable." The human rights group also went on to state that "While the motivation for the church break-ins may have been theft rather than a religious attack, opposition fighters have a responsibility to protect religious site in areas under their control from wilful damage and theft." 

Many of the minority groups have chosen to stay in the sidelines, most choosing to support no one. The Al-Assad government has previously and still professes to be a ardent supporter and protector of minorities and blames the looting and attacks on extremists.

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