NORTH AND EAST SYRIA — Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Gozarto and Euphrates, His Eminence, Mor Maurice Amsih, expressed his strong condemnation of the looting of Mor Touma Church (St. Thomas Church) in the Turkish-occupied city of Rish Ayno (Ras al-Ayn).
On Sunday, looters broke the locks of the church and stole sacred religious artifacts.
Father Mikhail Yacoub, who has been presiding over Holy Liturgies in the Mor Touma Church for seven years, told North Press Agency that the perpetrators had even stolen the copper instruments belonging to the Syriac Orthodox Scouts.
What happened in the church was a gross violation and “grave disrespect for Christian religious sanctities”, said Father Yacoub.
Archbishop Amsih denounced the desecration of the church. “The criminal act of the perpetrators in Mor Touma Church is unacceptable,” he declared, saying that he prayed to God to protect the Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean) people, their homeland, and their churches.
Churches are the Heavenly Kingdom on Earth, said Archbishop Amsih, and as such should be protected.
In October 2019, Turkey and its proxies in the Syrian National Army (SNA), a coalition of militias, several of them with extremist ideologies, formed and funded by Turkey, invaded the cities of Rish Ayno and Tel Abyad in North and East Syria, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Since the invasion, dozens of Turkish military bases have been established in those areas. The bases are guarded by the SNA who are equipped with armored vehicles and heavy weapons. Additionally, a large number of Turkish commandos are reportedly stationed in the region.
Demographic change and the Turkification of the area continue, with residents being forced to learn the Turkish language, the names of public facilities being replaced with Turkish ones and the hoisting of the Turkish flag over them.
Other human rights abuses continue as well. Turkish-backed factions continue to burn agricultural crops, kidnap civilians for ransom, extort business and families for large sums of money, and engage in torture, murder, and sexual assault.
In September, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a 25-page report calling on Turkey to put an end to wide-spread war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by its proxy forces, the Syrian National Army (SNA), in the areas under its occupation.
According to the report, there is significant evidence that the Turkish-backed SNA has committed, and continue to commit torture, murder, displacement, rape, and the looting of property.