By Stefan J. Bos, Worthy News’ Chief International Correspondent
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (Worthy News)– Islamic militants with ties to terror group al-Qaida have launched the “ethnic cleansing of minority Christians” in Syria, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee the embattled Syrian city of Homs and other areas, aid workers confirmed Tuesday, March 27.
At least 90 percent of Christians living in Homs have fled after “fanatics” forced them to leave their homes, said Dutch aid group ‘Kerk in Nood’, or Church in Need.
It added that the exodus of 50,000 people mainly took place in the last six weeks. “They have fled to villages and in the mountains, sometimes as far as 50 kilometers from their homes. We have reports that Islamists ‘cleansed’ the Homs areas of Hamidiya en Bustan al-Diwan without giving them the opportunity to anything with them,” the group told Worthy News in a statement.
Kerk in Nood said it has already made available some 80,000 euro ($107,000) for supporting the most vulnerable families, including survivors of a car bomb near a church in the city of Aleppo, that authorities claimed killed at least two people and injured 30 others.
Aid workers said the attack happened near the Franciscan Church of St. Bonaventure in the area.
Aleppo Bishop Antoine Audo, who supervised the aid program, said people who don’t receive support fear for their lives. “They don’t know what will be their future,” he said in remarks obtained by Worthy News.
“They are afraid that they will not receive back their homes. It’s of utmost importance that we help these people,” he said.
Earlier, aid group Barnabas Fund told Worthy News that Christians have also been used as “human-shields” by anti-government rebels, known as the Free Syrian Army, to prevent government forces from retaking control over the region.
The Free Syrian Army blames President Bashar Assad for the situation. Christians, like other Syrian minorities, have been viewed by critics as supportive of Bashar Assad, a member of the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Minorities reportedly fear an Islamist takeover should armed rebels, mostly from the nation’s Sunni Muslim majority, manage to overthrow Assad.
Kerk in Nood said there is growing fear that Syria will turn into “a second Iraq” with a similar pattern of attacks against churches, and expulsion or kidnappings of Christians.
“As attacks continue, Syria could experience the same fate as Iraq where the number of Christians living there has been reduced from as many as 1.4 million at the end of the 1980s to less than 300,000 now.”
Christians say that the crisis in especially Homs has raised fears that Islamists with ties to al-Qaida will use the power vacuum left by the other regimes in the Middle East when they were forced out by what became known by protests known as the “Arab Spring”.