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Priest killed in Syria

By editor - 03 July, 2013

On Sunday, 23rd June a Syrian priest, François Murad was killed in Gassanieh, in northern Syria.
Fides Agency has confirmed priest’s death but stated that the circumstances are not fully understood. Mainstream newspapers say the priest was beheaded and a video of the killing was broadcast.

Fides states that the monastery where Fr Murad was staying was attacked by militants linked to the jihadi group Jabhat al-Nusra. Fr François, 49, after being ordained a priest had started the construction of a coenobitic monastery dedicated to St Simon Stylites in the village of Gassanieh.

After the start of the Civil War, the monastery of St. Simon had been bombed and Fr Murad had moved to the convent of the Custody for safety reasons and to give support to the few who remained, along with another religious and nuns of the Rosary.

“Let us pray,” wrote the Custos of the Holy Land Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM ” so that this absurd and shameful war ends soon and that the people of Syria can go back to living a normal life.”

Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, titular of the Syrian Catholic archeparchy in Hassaké-Nisibis said to Fides: “The whole story of Christians in the Middle East is marked and made fruitful by the blood of the martyrs of many persecutions. Lately, father Murad sent me some messages that clearly showed how conscious he was of living in a dangerous situation, and offered his life for peace in Syria and around the world.

Aid agencies have been very busy taking care of those who flee the war in Syria. By April 2013, the Syria conflict had claimed 93,000 lives, of those, 1,729 were under the age of 10. As the crisis enters its third year, Caritas a sister aid agency to Trocaire has stated that the refugees are not just fleeing conflict but also a lack of food, medicine, healthcare and education as the country collapses.

Syrian refugees are seeking refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey having witnessed the horrors of war in their home country and taken a dangerous journey to escape. As refugees they live in tents, makeshift apartments or in tiny rooms. Many are dealing with the trauma of their recent experiences. The refugees are also worried about loved ones still in Syria. Depression, anxiety, insomnia, neurosis and stress are common.

“Nobody can get on with their normal lives if they are mentally ill,” said Caritas Jordan psychologist Lana Snobar. Ibrahim, a 60 year old man, escaped his village in north eastern Syria when it came under attack. His family were split up, two sons went to Turkey and his wife and another son now live with him in Lebanon. He spends his days pacing outside his refugee quarters or glued to the TV news from Syria, most of which is, he says, “blood and destruction”.

Eoghan Rice of Trocaire has written in his blog, from near the Syrian border, about Hoda, a mother of three.When a rocket attack destroyed a neighbour’s house in her village she knew she had to flee. She said: “Fourteen families were killed at once when their building was hit by rockets.  I was in my house when a rocket hit. Our neighbour’s house was completely destroyed and ours was very badly damaged. I was so afraid. I had to run out of the house.”

Now three months on Hoda and family live in a construction site in Taalabaya, Lebanon, 20 kilometres from the Syrian border. Along with approximately 120 other people, Hoda and her young children shelter in the shell of a half-built five storey apartment block. Some local Lebanese families gave them blankets and mattresses because it was winter when they arrived and it was very cold.

“This building is not safe, especially for the children. There is no electricity and no walls to stop them falling off the building. Two weeks ago we found a snake,” stated Hoda

Trócaire, through Caritas Lebanon, has helped to provide them with food, water and medical care, but as the numbers of Syrian refugees grows every day, so to do the needs. There are now well over 500,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a small country of just 4 million people.

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