A drone attack at the consecration of a church in Syria killed one Christian and injured another six.
Imagine you’re invited to the opening of your new church. Everyone is celebrating the end of a long building project. You’ve been looking forward to the church finally being opened – you’ve gathered with the rest of the church for a time of celebration and worship.
That’s what a group of believers were doing last week at the consecration of a Greek Orthodox church in Al-Suqaylabiyah, near Hama in the west of Syria. In the middle of the opening ceremony, there was a drone attack – as shown in this mobile phone footage (below) which you may find distressing to watch. One Christian was killed, and another six people were injured. According to Open Doors’ local sources, all the people injured are also believers.
The church was built as a mini replica of the iconic Hagia Sophia, the Byzantine cathedral in Istanbul, Turkey. The first cornerstone was laid in September 2020 in this small town, where the majority of residents are Greek Orthodox Christians. It is said that the decision to build this replica of the Hagia Sophia came as a response to the conversion of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque in July 2020.
According to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), the Al-Qaeda-affiliated HayatTahrir al-Sham (HTS) rebel group is behind this attack. HTS rebels are known to manufacture several types of explosives that can be remotely operated and reach targets at distance. It is believed that they were operated from the region of Greater Idlib, many miles from Al-Suqaylabiyah
"Attacks such as these show the vulnerable position of Christians in the region." Open Doors spokesperson
Based on images on social media, Open Doors’ sources report that the explosion did not directly hit the temporary canopy where the ceremony’s guests were seated, nor hit the actual church building. One of the two drones failed to detonate, possibly lowering the number of casualties. Thankfully none of the Christians who were injured sustained very serious injuries, and only one needed significant medical treatment – though the friends and family of the Christian who died are, of course, deeply upset by their loss. It is also disturbing to the community to know that they are still at risk from militant violence.
“The full civil war may seem to be over, but attacks such as these show the vulnerable position of Christians in the region,” says Francis Joseph, Communications Officer for Open Doors partners in the Middle East.
The video footage shows the genuine attack; the image on the blog newsfeed is illustrative.
You can hear and learn from our Middle Eastern persecuted church family at Standing Strong, the annual gathering where Open Doors supporters can join in worship and prayer, and hear inspiring testimonies. This year’s event is in Nottingham and online.
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