March 27, 2012
Contact information for press members:
George Stifo +1 508 667 6599 George@syrian-christian.org
Ayman Abdelnour +1 514 317 2744 firstname.lastname@example.org
March 23, 2012
Syrian Christians for Democracy is dedicated to reporting on the violence perpetrated by the Assad regime against its people, be they Christian or Muslim. We strive to represent the interests of the Christian community within Syria vis-à-vis the rest of the Syrian population and the international community.
While SCD supports the international press’ efforts to report on and tell the story of the revolution in Syria, it emphasizes the importance of verifying the truthfulness and accuracy of all stories prior to their publication.
To further investigate these claims, SCD contacted the "Al-Farooq" brigade of the Free Syrian Army, currently stationed in the outskirts of the city of Homs. The brigade’s spokesperson, Lieutenant Abdel Ruzzak Tlas, was decisive as he indicated on the city map exactly how his men retreated from the "Al-Hamidiye" district weeks before the alleged attacks on the Christians happened. According to Lieutenant Tlas, the "Al-Farooq" brigade left that area when it could no longer defend the remaining civilians from the incoming military onslaught. "The neighborhood has been since a playground for Assad’s troops", Lieutenant Tlas added. He ended by promising the Christians of Homs that their homes and properties will be returned to their possession once his brigade liberates the city from Assad’s men.
In regards to the story
published in "Agenzia Fides" on 03/21/2012 about the Christians of Homs who were forced to flee their homes, firsthand accounts have clarified that the perpetrators were members of the Syrian army who overtook the Christian neighborhood near Al-Hamidiye street and commandeered a number of Christian-resident buildings for strategic control over the city. The Christians were indeed forced to flee their homes, but rumors of the violence against them by terrorist groups or otherwise members of the opposition are both unverified and noxious.
As pertains to the attacks on the Christians in Aleppo, it is with great grievance and regret that SCD looks on the bombing of the Center of Catechesis at the Church of St. Bonaventure. SCD would like to reiterate its support for the Christians of Aleppo and its most profound admiration for their endeavors. SCD also cautions strongly against unfounded rumors and propaganda intended to incriminate the opposition and excuse the Assad regime from any responsibility. There is no evidence or motivation at the time being linking the revolution activists to the horrific crime, and unfounded accusations only serve to divide the opposition and weaken its cause.
The source of this misinformation campaign can be traced back almost exclusively to the controversial figure of Mother Agnes Mary of the Cross, head of the Catholic Media Center in Damascus. Mother Agnes maintains close ties to the Assad and Makhlouf families who use the Catholic Media Center to organize press events and trips to Syria for a handpicked group of European journalists from the "Reseau Voltaire" media group. Several independant media sources in Syria have accused Mother Agnes of feeding her guest reporters distorted facts and fake testimonies for the sole purpose of tarnishing the opposition's image. Her credibility is further put in question by her statements at a press conference organized in November 2011, published on the website of the French newspaper "Le Monde." Mother Agnes confessed that her information came from Syrian intelligence officers who escorted her and her foreign guest reporters during their travels inside Syria.
Mother Agnes and those helping her are harming the Syrian people by disseminating negative pro-Assad propaganda and tearing at Syria’s social and religious fabrics. The strength of the revolution has been in the unity of Syria’s religious groups within it, striving towards a common cause. The presence of Jesuit friars in Homs to provide humanitarian assistance to the remaining population in the city is incredibly heroic and brave, and is a true testimony to the unity of the popular movement against the Assad regime and the positive role the Christian clergy is playing. The Jesuits’ efforts in Homs must be met with every type of support possible from the international community.
The Christians in Syria, as well as the rest of the population, are in need of undivided support, backing, and funding. They do not need divisive rumors and the propagation of inaccurate information. SCD is happy to verify the any reports on events or actions pertaining to the Christian opposition in Syria.
UPDATE : On May 26, 2012 Agenzia Fides reported ( http://www.fides.org/aree/news/newsdet.php?idnews=31262&lan=
ASIA/SYRIA - The Jesuits: "Christians have fled from Homs, not thrown out by Islamists"
Homs (Agenzia Fides) - The faithful Christians living in the Bustan Al Diwan and Hamideh neighborhoods, in the city of Homs, have left the area and fled on their own initiative because of fear and conflict and were not forced to leave their homes because of threats on behalf of Islamist militia: this is what is reported to Fides by the Jesuit community of Homs. In past days, some sources in the Orthodox Christian community had told Fides that some Christian families in the two districts had been thrown out by militant Islamists. Other sources in the Middle East countries have repeatedly spoken of the militant Islamic extremists travels from Libya, Iraq and other nations toward Syria, with the aim to infiltrate in the ranks of the Free Syrian Army.
The Jesuits of Homs told Fides that "as far as we know, the Christians in the city of Homs have not been threatened and forced to flee their homes". "There were some incidents – they explain - where houses left empty (by Christians) were occupied by displaced families. But when the owners returned, their homes were given back in a peaceful manner. One of the imams of the area – they add - apologized to the priest of the Jesuit church, because of these unfortunate incidents".
The Christian areas of Homs, note sources of Fides, are at the center of the crossfire between army and rebels. In Homs there are about 1,000 Christians. A year ago, before the start of the fighting, there were in town, on the whole, 160 thousand faithful and four Bishops of various denominations. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 26/3/2012)