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ICC Note: Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war five years ago, Christians have been living in “The way of the cross.” Suffering death and abduction, Christians have come to be known as martyrs, standing for their faith even in the face of desolation. Christian neighborhoods and citizens have been the greatest targets in this civil war thus far. Stories of torture, beatings, rape and children being buried alive have all emerged from the region.

05/09/2016 Syria (Catholic News Agency): In a Christian neighborhood inside war-torn Syria, a young boy was waiting to be discharged from a hospital after undergoing surgery. Suddenly the building shook from a bombing.

His mother, who was with him, ran out of the hospital to look for help. After she left, a bomb directly hit the building and her son was killed.

“She told me ‘My son was already prepared to be in heaven’,” Sister Maria de Guadalupe, a missionary in Syria with the Institute of the Incarnate Word, said of the mother. According to the mother, her son had recently reminded her of Christ’s Gospel admonition not to fear those who can kill the body, but rather those who can take the soul.

“This is what persecuted Christians live daily,” Sr. Maria said. “They say ‘Don’t worry – kill me. They can’t take away the heaven from me. You can take my head, you can burn my churches…when I die, I won’t die.”

Sr. Maria testified at the #WeAreN2016 international congress on religious freedom in New York City. The April 28-30 meeting detailed the plight of persecuted Christians in Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria, and asked the United Nations to take action to prevent further atrocities in those regions.

On Friday, the advocacy group CitizenGO delivered 400,000 signatures to the United Nations headquarters, petitioning the UN Security Council to declare that the Islamic State is committing genocide in Iraq and Syria against Christians and other religious minorities, and for the matter to be referred to the International Criminal Court for investigation and possible prosecution.

Sister Maria and Fr. Rodrigo Miranda, missionaries in the Institute of the Incarnate Word, both testified at the congress. They have lived in Aleppo during the Syrian civil war, and told the gathering of unspeakable atrocities committed against Christians there.

For Christians in Syria, life has been one long “Way of the Cross” since the civil war began five years ago.

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