24-October-2012 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Violence against Christians Escalating in Syrian Conflict

Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Says Christians Are Exploited in Conflict

DAMASCUS, Syria, OCT. 24, 2012 (Zenit.org).- On Monday, two Christians were kidnapped and killed when a car bomb exploded in Damascus, reports the Fides news agency. While travelling south from Qusair to Damascus, the two faithful were stopped by an armed group, seized and a ransom of $30,000 was asked of their family. Two hours later, the kidnappers announced their killing. They were the brother and cousin of a local pastor of a Greek-Catholic Church in Damascus.

Later on in the evening, Jaramana, a south-eastern suburb of Damascus, was the scene of rebel bombings again this year. A source close to Fides News Agency reported a violent explosion occurred near the Greek-Catholic church of St. Abraham, damaging the surrounding buildings. It is unclear if there were any casualties and whether the two events were connected.

Jaramana, a prevalently Christian and Druze neighborhood, has doubled its population in recent years due to the many Iraqi refugees fleeing the war of 2003. Since the beginning of the rebellion in March of last year, it has remained loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. In the last week of August, two explosions killed more than 27 people in this neighborhood. It is believed that rebels have regrouped in the area after they were scattered by July's military offensive.

"Christians are used as objects in a challenge to the government. There is no persecution, they are not killed for their faith, but they are vulnerable and are manipulated in order to achieve other goals," said Melkite Greek-Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham in an interview with Fides. The prelate is currently in Rome for the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.

Patriarch Laham recalled as well the kidnapping of the brother of the Rector of his seminary in Lebanon, who has not been seen or heard of since his abduction in July.

"These events create great anxiety among the faithful," he said.

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