By Sarah Mac Donald - 27 February, 2015
Speaking to Vatican Radio, Archbishop Mario Zenari said that many of Syria’s remaining Christians are preparing to leave as they have seen no improvement in the conditions in their country.
Tens of thousands of Christians have already left the country in search of refuge.
Archbishop Zenari said that Syrians face two separate disasters: “The civil war front which has been going on for almost five years, a conflict which has killed over 200,000 people, has injured more than a million and displaced 11 million.”
He said there was also “all the terrible things that are happening in the areas under the control of the so-called Islamic State.”
Together, they amount to one of the world’s greatest humanitarian tragedies since World War II, he said.
“The civil conflict must be halted but so must the advance of the so-called caliphate,” the Nuncio said.
Meanwhile, an estimated 5,000 Christians from villages in northeast Syria have fled their villages following the Islamic State’s latest offensive, according to a report from Agence France-Presse.
Most have fled to Al-Hasakah, the regional capital, or to Qamishli, a city of 180,000 on the Turkish border.
There are reportedly no Christians remaining in the villages taken by the Islamic State, except those who are being held hostage.
“Around 15 young Assyrians were martyred,” according to Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, who added that the number of Christians in captivity now may be as high as 350.
He said that at least one woman had been beheaded and two men shot.
The region’s leading Syriac Catholic prelate, Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, said that the Turkey has allowed Islamic State militants to cross the border into Syria but is not permitting fleeing Christians to enter Turkey.