I would like to question the veracity of a quote in this report attributed to the current Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo, Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen in which he is cited as saying; “Just a year ago, when the rebels were only Syrians, things were different; there was respect, there was not this violence and extremism. Now it is the militiamen, primarily foreigners. Now there are many people who before hoped that this spring would flower, but they have realized that it hasn’t.”
I can hardly believe that this statement is accurate as prior to his current appointment he was present in the city of Aleppo and has served since 2004 as vicar general for Latin rite Catholics in the north of Syria. In fact in May 2012 over two years ago his predecessor in Aleppo, Msgr. Giuseppe Nazzaro was cited by the Catholic media outlet Asia News as referring to the presence of foreign fighters in Syria saying that “the country is now the prey of fighters from Tunisia, Libya, Turkey, Pakistan and other Islamic states. Weapons and money are pouring across the borders to feed the spiral of violence".
The violence that has beset Syria arrived to Aleppo in July of 2012 when, against the wishes of a majority of the city’s residents, Aleppo was invaded and attacked by a variety of rebel factions coming from outside the area. Within a matter of months even western media such as Reuters News were acknowledging the presence of foreign fighters among the rebels in that city.
In late August of 2012 the Vatican’s Pontifical Missions news service Fides quoted from Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen who reported on a rebel attack and the looting of the Melkite greek-Catholic headquarters and residence as well as damage and destruction to other church institutions in the city. In the same report Fides also quoted form another member of the local hierarchy, “who requested anonymity for security reasons,” who warned: "With the intervention, well established, of jihadist groups, there is an attempt to foment hatred and sectarian conflict. There is an increasing number of Wahhabi and Salafi Islamist militias, from Chechnya, Pakistan, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Arabia, Libya: these groups have the sole purpose of bringing chaos, destruction, atrocities, and to paralyze social life”.
Likewise at the end of August 2012 Fr. Jules Baghdassarian, Greek-Catholic priest of Aleppo and National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) in Syria reported that "the fighters of the Free Syrian Army want to take heart of Aleppo and in the heart there are churches and Christian homes. The revolutionary armed gangs are predominantly Islamic, we have eyewitnesses to this, and Christians are afraid of violence. The people of Aleppo do not want the revolution, they love peace. Christian and Muslim families are tired of violence, because life has been very hard in the past year."
And so the story goes for now more than three years since the city was first invaded. There is sufficient documentary evidence, not least from the Vatican’s own media, to prove that the statement attributed to Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen by the Rome based American Catholic news outlet Zenit is factually incorrect. One is only left to wonder if the author of the piece was trying to align the article in some way to the false U.S. foreign policy myth of the so called “moderate” rebels who showed “respect” and were not “violent” or “extreme” and who were sidelined by foreign fanatics. If Zenit has attributed false words to Msgr. Khazen, they should answer for it and if Msgr. Khazen did actually make this statement, he needs to offer some explanation to those who have been the victims of unremitting attack and terror in the city for the last three years.
See Alan Lonergan's blog at http://orontes.jimdo.com/