Islamists beheaded a young Christian man and seriously wounded another in attack near Homs, a city in Syria. The pair was travelling by car from Homs to a majority Christian village known as Marmarita. A group of five armed jihadists intercepted the vehicle in which Firas Nader (29), and Fadi Matanius Mattah (34), were traveling and opened fire.
When the assailants reached the car and noted that Fadi wore a cross hanging from his neck, he was immediately beheaded. They also stole money and various documents, leaving Firas behind when they thought he was dead. Following the January 8 attack, Firas managed to escape on foot to Almshtaeih, a nearby town, where he was transferred to a hospital in Tartou. Christians recovered Mattah’s desecrated body and brought it to Marmarita, where locals openly expressed grief, fear and deep indignation.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Catholic charity, has reported that violence against Christians in Syria is becoming "one of the worst persecutions endured by Christians in this part of the third millennium." More than 600,000 Christians - a third of the total Syrian faithful - are internally displaced or living as refugees in neighboring countries. Christian leaders fear that the exodus of Christians from Syria, who have been present since the earliest days of the faith, could seriously jeopardize the future of the church in that country.
The people of Marmarita and Hamat, which are towns with significant Christian communities, are suffering a cold winter and fratricidal warfare. Many are living in severe discomfort and without food, heating, shelter and medicine, which because of the bitter cold weather has worsened the humanitarian crisis.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.