By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
DAMASCUS/BEIRUT (BosNewsLife)– Christians in Syria and Lebanon were mourning Saturday, October 20, the growing number of believers killed in anti-Christian violence, including children.
Among the latest victims in Syria was missionary and house church leader Sami, his wife and their three children, who were murdered by “a marauding militia earlier this month,” said the Christian Aid Mission (CAM) group.
In a letter to a missionary and pastor, obtained by BosNewsLife, a survivor of the bloodshed claimed they were killed while he and other Christians were meeting for worship at Sami’s house church. “A group of fanatic Muslims…broke down the door and started to shoot all over the place,” Haddad recalled.
“We were afraid. They said we have to stop meeting and start praying to [Islam’s Prophet] Muhammad and that we were all going to hell,” Haddad wrote.
“Then they asked us to leave the house and told Sami to stay with his family. [When we] left the house, we heard people shouting and then they killed Sami and his family.”
He expressed concerns about the future. “What shall we do? The brothers here are afraid and we have no more houses or food or anything. Why is Jesus not coming soon to take us home?”
BosNewsLife could not independently verify the authenticity of the letter, but it seemed consistent with other reports.
In a written reaction, the missionary leader to whom the letter was addressed said that while he is “very, very sad” Christians should realize that “Sami and his family are with Jesus now and they are rejoicing with Him now.”
He told Sami’s house church members to flee to Lebanon. “Remember brother that Jesus has been through death and overcame it with His resurrection. Remember that we will all be with Jesus and we are not afraid to die for His glory. Sami was a man of God and loved Jesus with all his heart,” he wrote in a letter released by CAM.
Christians were either identified with only one name, or not identified, and no specific location was provided, amid security concerns.
CAM said the latest killings bring the total death toll of believers linked to Sami’s “ministry” to 11.
“Many believers from this area have fled to Lebanon [but] there are 32 Christian families left in Syria” in the region who “need to find a way to Lebanon,” added the group.
However even in Lebanon, Christians face growing violence, following Friday’s bomb attack that rocked a Christian district in Beirut, killing at least 8 people, including a senior security official.
The head of Lebanon’s national police and security force, Wissam al-Hassan, was among the dead and was believed to be the target of the attack.
Hassan, who was to be buried on Sunday, October 21, led an investigation that implicated Syria in the 2005 bombing that killed former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
His son, Saad Hariri, has accused the Syrian government of being behind the car bombing in Beirut, that also injured 80 people.
Anti-Syrian protests were held Saturday, October 20, in several Lebanese towns with at least one death reported in the northern city of Tripoli.
Despite the mounting tensions in Lebanon, CAM told BosNewsLife CAM there is “an urgent need to help Syrian believers escape the violence” otherwise “they will all be dead if they stay.”
Syrian Christians, who comprise roughly 10 percent of the mainly Islamic population, have been accused by opposition fighters of having cooperated with the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
Christian refugees have told reporters that if the uprising against Al-Assad is successful, they will find themselves “on the losing side” regardless of whom they support.
Across Syria, over 30,000 people are believed to have been killed since a Sunni-led popular uprising against Assad, a member of the Shiite-linked Alawite sect, broke out 19 months ago.
CAM said it was involved in supporting missionaries seeking shelter for Christians.
“They will need to find housing and take care of them once they get to Lebanon.”
The Christians can’t expect much luxury. A small room rents for $600 month, with three or four families living their, “sharing one bathroom and kitchen”, CAM said.