Christians desperate to flee the besieged Syrian city of Homs are caught in the crossfire; they are not even safe in their own homes as fighters invade and plunder their properties.
Homs is the third largest city in Syria; its population is around 17-18% Christian
The rebels, who are increasingly influenced by Sunni Islamists, go from house to house, taking whatever they want – even the doors – to resource their campaign against government troops. To avoid being captured, the intruders make their escape by knocking holes through the walls between the properties.
Around 70 homes belonging to Christians in Homs have been invaded and pillaged. The rebels are also seizing vehicles and stripping them of their parts.
In recent weeks Homs has been subjected to intense government shelling, which has killed many civilians, while rebel snipers kill people on the streets, making it almost impossible for anyone to leave their homes.
A senior Christian leader told Barnabas Fund:
The situation of Homs at the moment is a horrifying one. Violence has escalated… We witnessed a lot of bombardments, killings, shootings, kidnappings.
As well as the danger of being caught in the crossfire, the lack of resources is putting the survival of Homs’ residents under serious threat. There is no electricity, and people are running out of clean water, food and medicines.
A senior Church leader told Barnabas Fund that thousands of Christian families who are still trapped in Homs would flee if there was just a small window of opportunity, even two or three hours.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has called for a daily truce of at least two hours to allow for the delivery of life-saving aid and evacuation of the wounded.
Barnabas Fund is helping to get emergency supplies to Christians who have escaped to the villages around Homs as well as Christians in other parts of Syria.
The country has been experiencing very low temperatures, with snow in some places, which, along with power cuts in certain localities, is aggravating the difficulties and hardships of the Syrian people.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said: “Life is now completely unbearable for those trapped in Homs, including thousands of Christians. It is far too dangerous for them to leave their homes, and even there they are not safe, facing artillery and tank shells from the government forces and knowing that rebels could burst into their properties at any moment. Our beleaguered brothers and sisters in Syria continue to need our prayers and practical support.”