Syrian Christian abbess, Mother Agnes-Mariam de la Croix, pictured at St Patricks church in Melbourne during a visit to Australia
The mother superior of a 1500-year-old monastery in Syria has warned during a visit to Australia that the uprising against Bashar al-Assad has been hijacked by foreign Islamist mercenaries, with strong support from Western countries, reports The Australian.
Mother Agnes-Mariam de la Croix was forced to flee to neighbouring Lebanon in June when she was warned of a plot to abduct her, after she revealed that about 80,000 Christians had been "cleared" by rebel forces from their homes in Homs province.
She described on the website of the Greek-Melkite Catholic monastery of St James, the church she rebuilt 18 years ago after discovering it in ruins, how Islamist rebels had gathered Christian and Alawi hostages in a building in Khalidiya in Homs. Then they blew it up with dynamite and attributed the act to the regular army.
Mother Agnes-Mariam plans to return to Syria soon, to support the Mussalaha (Reconciliation) community-based movement, which rejects sectarian violence and includes, she said, members of all ethnic and religious communities who are tired of war.
Rallies with the theme "Hands Off Syria" were scheduled across Australia over the weekend.
Mother Agnes-Mariam, 60, speaks five languages fluently and spent 22 years as a contemplative Carmelite nun in Lebanon, where she was born. Her late father was a Palestinian refugee who fled Nazareth in 1948 when the state of Israel was established.
She told The Weekend Australian, while visiting Melbourne - between meetings with Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart and state parliamentarians - that after the uprising began, she had noticed growing numbers of "aggressive, armed gangs which wished to paralyse community life, abducting people, beheading, bringing terror even to schools".
FULL STORY Christians 'emptied from Middle-East' (Australian)