The Greek-Catholic church of St. Elias in Qusayr, near the Syrian city of Homs, has been occupied by a group of insurgents who are fighting against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad's government. The gunmen have established the church as their base of operations. Eyewitnesses reported to the FIDES news service that on June 13, Islamic radicals stormed into the church, forcing the door, ringing bells and carrying out a demonstration of contempt that raised concern among local Christian leaders.
The group is now camped in the worship space and is carrying out its activities from there. The local Church condemns the incident, saying such "behavior unacceptable and disrespectful toward a sacred place," according to remaining members of the Catholic hierarchy in Syria.
Christian authorities in Syria have launched an appeal that the current conflict "does not degenerate into the desecration of temples and sacred places, of all communities. "
Observers have noted that over the last few weeks, radical Salafi Islamist groups in the city of Qusayr, south of Homs appear to "want to fight a war of religion." At this time, most of the Christians who remain are the elderly who do not wish to leave their homes. In less than one week, more than 1,000 Christians have fled the area following a Muslim ultimatum which called on Christians to leave the city.