The trouble in Syria has escalated even more. Minority groups there are ‘beleaguered’ and being used as human shields, according to a report from Barnabas Fund.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, chief executive of Barnabas Fund, which has been supplying food parcels to Christian neighbourhoods, said, ‘In … Hamadiya in the old city, there was a large proportion of the Christians who lived in Homs, but almost all have fled.
‘Rebel forces now occupy their homes. However, 86 Christians were kept in Hamadiya as a human shield. I have a list of their names.
‘Church leaders told me that the rebels are holding the hostages to deter the government from attacking Hamadiya with full force. Without food supplies, apart from what they had in their homes months ago, without any medical care at all, several of the 86 Christians have already died during their captivity’.
The report added there are believed to be 80 Christian hostages left alive. At one point the Red Crescent managed to get a little aid in for the Hamadiya Christians, but had to retreat.
The Syrian government has assured church leaders it is willing to help get the Christians out, and the Free Syrian Army has told church leaders they would allow the Christians to leave Hamadiya.
However, the Salafi, al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist elements of the rebel forces refuse. The Christians who fled are living rough in surrounding villages or valleys.
Dr Sookhdeo said the Christian area of Aleppo is almost completely surrounded by rebel forces and extremists. At least 131 have been killed, mainly by the rebels. Ten or 11 Christians are currently held by kidnappers. While Salafis and al-Qaeda do not negotiate, other kidnappers are willing to discuss payment of a ransom from church leaders.
Barnabas Fund has challenged Christians in the free world to consider Syria in prayer and give practical help (www.barnabasfund.org).