While the Syrian opposition forces have been guilty of violence, abuse, and torture - as stated in a report released by Human Rights Watch - in Homs there is "an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians", carried out by members of the "Brigade Faruq", which has been linked to Al Qaeda. This is according to sources in the Syrian Orthodox Church, which represents 60% of Christians in Syria. Militant armed Islamists - says the source - have managed to expel 90% of Christians from Homs and confiscated their homes by force.
According to Syrian Orthodox sources, the militants went door to door in the neighborhoods of Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan, forcing Christians to flee, without giving them the chance to take their belongings. The "Faruq Brigade" is run by armed elements of Al-Qaeda and various Wahhabi groups and includes mercenaries from Libya and Iraq.
The Vatican representative at Aleppo, Apostolic Vicar Monsignor Giuseppe Nazzaro told the Fides news service, "We have no sources to confirm this information directly, but we can say that these relationships are beginning to break down the wall of silence built up to now by the press worldwide. In this situation Islamist and terrorist movements are making headway".
The Msgr. Nazzaro recalled "Last Sunday, a car bomb exploded in Aleppo packed with TNT, in the vicinity of the school of the Franciscan fathers. By a miracle a massacre of children was avoided, at the Center of catechesis of the Church of St. Bonaventure: only because the Franciscans, sensing danger, made the children leave 15 minutes before the usual time. Other bombs exploded in Damascus: these are bad signs for religious minorities". On the prospects of the situation, the Vicar says, "I am confident that peace can return: for this we Christians count on constant praying".
Meanwhile, in Homs, Jesuit priests and religious have decided to stay in the city to provide comfort and humanitarian assistance to people in need, fulfilling their mission as "bridge builders" between cultures and religions. The Jesuits say they are inspired to inculcate tolerance, cultural and religious pluralism, while calling for dialogue and respect for human dignity and values of the Gospel. The Jesuits in Syria are engaged in interfaith dialogue, education and rural development projects.