On Sunday, June 23, Syrian Catholic priest François Murad was murdered in the locality of Gassanieh, northern Syria, according to a statement from the Custody of the Holy Land sent to the Fides Agency.
Murad (49), having led a religious life and studied in Palestine, was ordained a priest and set about building a monastery in Gassanieh, Idlib.
Murad was targeted by armed militants, while he was residing at the monastery, which was dedicated to Saint Simon Stylite.
Citing the head of all Franciscans in the Holy Land, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Vatican News Agency said that Father Murad recently chose a monastic way of life and resorted to the monastery, with Franciscan Friars, a few weeks earlier.
“The world must know that the support of gunmen by the west is helping extremists in killing Syrians”, Pizzaballa said, adding that, “with such stances, not a single Christian will remain in the East.”
According to local sources, the monastery was raided by gunmen, who proceeded to execute François Murad, loot and burn the building. Four-thousand people are reported to have since fled the area.
Christians in Syria are being increasing targeted by sectarian armed groups in Syria, of which there are between several hundred and over a thousand.
In May, a Christian village located in Homs countryside, was overrun by armed men and it’s entire population massacred.
Two Christian bishops who were kidnapped by Chechen gunmen in Aleppo earlier this year, are still missing.
In April, the remaining Christians in Deir el-Zour fled, the church having being blown up by militants. Last week, militants massacred dozens of villagers in the province’s town of Hatla. Since then, summary executions and sectarian house-to-house raids have taken place.
Sectarian bloodshed has increased following the Syrian army’s securing of the strategic Homs city of al-Qusayr earlier this month. Despite the overt sectarianism of armed groups in Syria, America and it’s allies have pledged to continue the transfer of weapons in an effort to turn the tide of the conflict. Advanced weapons have since been spotted in the hands of extremists militants.
Many thanks to Alaa Ebrahim for al-Qusayr photography.