Weeks after al-Qaeda-linked rebels seized the Christian town of Maaloula in northwest Syria, they now have captured Sednaya, an Aramaic-speaking village to the north of Damascus.
Known for its large presence of Christian churches and monasteries, the village is under constant threat of Islamist militias from Yabroud and the Lebanese mountains, the Vatican news agency Fides reported.
"This is banditry," a religious-order priest who wished to remain anonymous told Fides. "But it is also a vendetta against Christians. We would not want to give a meaning to these acts of religious persecution, but they are targeted attacks that have the effect of creating confusion and fear among civilians."
A Catholic man reportedly was killed and another wounded during a raid Monday, a new tactic by armed gangs meant to create terror among the civilian population, Fides reported.
"Today, the people of Sednaya are afraid of having the same fate as Maaloula," the priest added.
Civilians from Maaloula have formed a committee in Damascus.
"We appeal strongly to the international community," a representative told Fides. "Nobody helps us, Islamic radicalism is becoming more discriminatory. We feel unprotected. No one does anything to prevent these human right abuses: we ask the UN Commission in Geneva to intervene."
Smaller committees are cropping up all over Syria aimed at preventing violence. This is what is happening, for example, in the so-called "Valley of the Christians" in western Syria, where there are more than 50 Christian villages. More than 200,000 refugees have been added to the area, Fides reported, but even these villages suffer attacks by militants.
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