A visit by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch to the Syrian town of Qaryatain has shed light on devastations left by Islamic State militants on the town, retaken by the Syrian army a week ago.
Twenty-one Christians were murdered and another 300 Christians remained in the town after IS over-ran it in August 2015, the BBC quoted Ignatius Aphrem II as saying.
The Syriac Orthodox Patriarch said some died while trying to escape, while others were killed for breaking the terms of their “dhimmi contracts”, which required them to submit to the rule of Islam.
Three women were among those killed, Aphrem added, during his visit to Qaryatain (60km west of Palmyra, and 92km southeast of Homs).
“We have seen the destruction wrought, and the hate that visited such destruction on a holy place,” said the Patriarch during his visit on 8 April.
The town’s historic monastery (named after St. Eliane, who was martyred in 284 A.D. for refusing to renounce Christianity) suffered widespread destruction, including of its church, which was gutted, and of the 5th-century shrine, which was badly damaged.
Relics were visible among the rubble; Christian symbols were trashed and crosses removed.
“Life may not be easy the first few weeks or months in Qaryatain, but having the returnees back will significantly restore normality,” said Aphrem, quoted by Syrian state media.
Hundreds of Christians were taken captive when Qaryatain fell to IS. After pledging to submit to their captors’ demands of subservience to Muslim rule, many Qaryatain Christians were later released.
However, the jihadists are thought to still be holding 179 Christians taken from this one Syrian town alone.
Two St. Eliane Monastery priors had already been kidnapped by Islamists.
Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio was kidnapped in July 2013. The Italian is still apparently being held, while his replacement, Syriac Catholic Jacques Mourad, was kidnapped in May 2015, but escaped in October.