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Events of Wednesday, 22 February 2012 at Deir Mar Musa el-Habashi
Wednesday evening at 6 pm, the following happened:
Around thirty armed men – all, except their commander, had their face covered – stormed the monastery’s sheepfold, where some employees were dwelling. They put upside down the premises, looking for weapons and money, and asking for the father responsible. One of the shepherds was forced to lead some of the armed persons to another part of the monastery. Four of the sisters, who were about to go to the prayer, were confined to a room under surveillance. Right after, some of the aggressors hurried to the church and entered in. The monastic community who was gathered for the meditation reminded them that this was a place of prayer, and as such should be respected. The armed men constrained the people present under duress to assemble in a side aisle of the church. Then, they intercepted other persons at the monastery in a brutal way. They went on searching for weapons and money, but to no effect, destroying all means of communication they could find, but without causing any major damage. During the aggression, the responsible for the group was taking photos with his mobile phone. After having permitted that the prayer goes on, he ordered the people present to remain in the church for an hour.
The Superior of the monastery was in Damascus, and could not return before daybreak on Thursday.
It is noteworthy that those with authority among the armed persons declared straight away that they did not have the intention to harm the people present at the monastery, and in fact, they kept their word during the aggression.
Naturally, the question arises as to the identity of the armed group. At the moment, it seems impossible to give a definite answer. For sure, those men were familiar with weapons, seeking material interests. The reason why they were looking for weapons at a monastery that has been well known for years for its choice and promotion of non violence remains obscure.
We thank God for the protection of his angels, and we prayed during mass for our aggressors and their families. In spite of these painful events, we did not lose our inner peace nor the desire to serve reconciliation.
Deir Mar Musa