Christian and Sunni Civilians Trapped in Homs

The situation of the civilians in the center of Syrian city of Homs is getting worse, church sources inside Syria report. About 400 Christian civilians trapped in the Hamidiyeh and Bustan Diwan neighborhoods along with 400 other Sunni Muslim civilians have launched a desperate cry for help to the various Christian churches in Homs that civilians are able to contact. According to Homs-based priests, Syrian-Catholic, greek-catholic and greek-orthodox families are living underground as the situation grows more dangerous.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent, after long negotiations between the warring parties managed to obtain a cease-fire in late June, with the hope of being able to enter the area and evacuate civilians from the areas of Khalidiyah, Hamidiyeh and Bustan Diwan. But the truce was not respected and it was impossible to carry out humanitarian operations. "Civilians cannot get out of their hiding places and they are terrified. There is only one working bakery and only some, tempt fate, go out once a day to get some food. Some of the civilians find themselves in places close to where armed militants are entrenched," said church sources inside Homs. The armed opposition groups have chosen to entrench in Christian neighborhoods because they are formed by a maze of narrow streets, where heavy military vehicles cannot enter.

Meanwhile, the Syrian army, for about three days, seem to have changed strategy: instead of indiscriminate bombing, they penetrate into the "hot zone" with small military units, through a passage near the district of Khalidiyah, an area where about 1,000 Sunni Muslim families reside. The soldiers try to flush out rebel groups in what promises to be true urban guerilla warfare.

Meanwhile Syrian church sources report that new meetings and new initiatives are coming from the inter-religious popular movement "Mussalaha" ("Reconciliation"), which proposes a "reconciliation from below" starting with families, clans and the different communities of Syrian civil society that are tired of the conflict. Peace initiatives and meetings are multiplying. A recent meeting which involved civic leaders, religious leaders, moderates, Christians and Muslims, tribal leaders, Sunnis and Alawites citizens of the mosaic that makes up the Syrian society, was held in Deir Ezzor, in the province of Djazirah (eastern Syria), near the Euphrates. The movement, Syrian sources report, intends to say "No" to civil war and notes that "we cannot continue with a toll that totals between 40 and 100 victims a day. The nation is bled white, it loses youth and its best forces."

The movement is finding support abroad: Ireland’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire said in a statement "No to war in Syria": "We must put ourselves in the shoes of the Syrian people and find peaceful ways to stop this mad rush toward a war that mothers, fathers and sons of Syria do not want and do not deserve." The text adds: "We urgently need to support those working for peace in Syria and are looking for a way to help the 22 million Syrians to resolve their conflict, without promoting violence or chaos." The Nobel Prize winner invites the United Nations to "be a forum where these Syrian voices are heard" voices of "people who have worked hard for Syria, to the idea of Syria as a secular, peaceful and modern country."

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