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BEIRUT, Lebanon – An auxiliary Greek Orthodox bishop of Antioch based in Damascus, Syria, has issued a call to arms to Christians worldwide to fight the Islamicmilitants who have killed and kidnapped Christians and destroyed their holy places in Syria.

In referring to the most recent kidnapping of 13 nuns and orphanage workers and the taking over of the ancient Christian Syrian village of Malloula by al-Qaida fighters, Bishop Luca al-Khoury said many young men “are asking us to take action.”

“I call on every young man who can take up arms to come forward,” al-Khoury said, adding that Christians need to engage in self-defense and protect Christian holy places.

“Our young people are ready (and) their fingers are on the trigger and they’re ready to fight for the sake of Syria and for the sake of self-defense,” al-Khoury said.

Al-Khoury pointed out that some 40 churches have been damaged or destroyed during the war in Syria.

He blamed the international community for accepting the Syrian opposition’s claim that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is killing Syrians.

Lebanese Energy Minister Gebran Bassil said that recent events in Malloula, where the Syrian government and the Islamist fighters have been waging a fierce campaign, are having an impact on Christians in Lebanon and the rest of the world.

He said that it was time to act in an effort to halt the series of attacks on Christians.

“Reactions in Lebanon, the Levant and the world haven’t been sufficient,” Bassil said.

He pointed out that the muted international outcry was similar to the one following the kidnapping of two Orthodox bishops last April. There has been no word about them.

A Shiite source close to the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah has told WND that Hezbollah has been doing the fighting on behalf of the Christians in an effort to protect them and their churches.

Hezbollah, said to have a military wing more powerful than the Lebanese army, similarly has been protecting Christians in Lebanon. Christian militias pale in comparison to that of Hezbollah’s military capability.

The Shiite source said that Hezbollah, along with the Syrian military, took Malloula once and probably will have to do it again.

The Assad government has been known to protect minorities, including Christians.

Experts warn that if the Sunni Wahhabist militant fighters gain the upper hand against Assad, the flight of minorities, especially Christians, would amount to a humanitarian disaster, with ramifications for Christians living in Lebanon.

Al-Khoury said that young Christians need to take up arms to defend “the homeland” and the Christian presence in Syria against al-Qaida-linked terrorist groups who have been targeting all religious faiths, except for Wahhabites, over the past two years.

“Every Christian youth capable of taking up arms should do so and defend Syria,” he said. “Christians are prayerful and peaceful, but it seems that today, faced with these people, prayer and peace aren’t enough anymore.”

“Syrian Christians won’t leave Syria by their own will, because they are attached to their land,” al-Khoury said. “Christians and Muslims have been living in Syria for over 1,600 years and Syrian Christians aren’t afraid, even though the main goal of those who target the churches is to attack Christians’ historical identity.”

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