Hundreds of Christians fight to defend the Biblical Syrian town of Sadad from Islamic State

As Isamic State jihadists continue their push westwards toward the Syrian capital of Damascus, having already captured the town of Maheen, hundreds of Christians are coming from all over  Syria to prevent IS from conquering the biblical Christian town of Sadad, which lies about 4 miles from Maheen. With their help, the young people in Sadad were able to fight back and push IS back to where they started.

Many of the 500 Christians defending Sadad come from Damascus and towns throughout the Homs province. However about 200  fighters have come from as far as Qamishli, a town near the Turkish border that is about an eight-hour drive from Sadad.

When IS began an offensive in the ancient Assyrian heartlands on 31 Oct, the Syrian regime responded by moving dozens of volunteers from the Christian militia in Hasakah in the northeast to the hinterland of Homs. The northeast Christians are experienced fighters who played a key role in expelling IS from Hasakah. They will support the militia of the Syrian National Socialist Party (SNSP), which also includes Muslims and Alawites. The SNSP Militia  had been forced out of Maheen and is now defending Sadad

“People from all over Syria have arrived to fight for Sadad,” one undisclosed Christian fighter told Newsweek.said “It is a symbolic place for us and we will not allow it to fall again.” The al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front had conquered the town in 2013,killing 46 Syriac Christians there before Sadad was recaptured by the Syrian army a week later.

At a time when Christianity is in danger of becoming extinct in the region, Mor Ignatius Aphrem Karim II, the leader of the Syriac Orthodox church said: “It was emotional but it was also very encouraging to see our young people determined to defend their land and stay in their homeland, To see them ready to fight and to sacrifice for their land, I think that’s very meaningful, that made me very proud of them.”

There are many reasons why IS is so determined to take Sadad.Apart from oil, Sadad is strategically important because of its location, close to Homs. If IS conquers Sadad, it will be within striking distance of cutting the Damascus/ Homs road.

Perhaps equally important are the symbolic reasons – Sadad which is referred to in the book of Numbers and the book of Ezekiel as “Zedad,” is a historic Christian town . By conquering Sadad and sweeping away non-Muslim elements, IS would effectively be seen to have carried out its threat of genocide against  Christians in the region

Father Luka Awad, Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh’s assistant for emergency aid, said “The people there still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. We have important churches there. It is really a centre of our Christian heritage. Its loss doesn’t bear contemplating. We are truly fearing for our cultural heritage. We beg the international community to put an end to this war.”

Although so many people have flocked to protecting the town, thousands of families have fled  and Sadad’s population has dwindled from about 15,000 during the summer to  about 2,000. “We hope that Sadad does not become a new Mosul, Nineveh, Khabour or al-Qaryatain,” said Nuri Kino, founder of the advocacy group A Demand for Action.

ACN Malta.