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Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Our "brave new world"!

I have long considered rape to be the worst of all crimes against an individual - worse than even murder, because the victim has to then live with the memory, and the resultant psychological scarring, until she (or, in some cases, he) does die.

The past week saw a report of a group of young boys - 11 and 12 years old - 'gang-raping' an even younger girl.  Earlier in the year there was the horrific report from India of the young student who was targeted on a bus, while her male companion was beaten up.  There have been many reports of rape evn in Cairo's Tahrir Square during the frequent demonstrations held there in recent times.  And the list could go on, and on, and on. 

A Christian teenager in Syria was seized by Islamist rebels, was forcibly married and raped by 15 different men before being killed.
The tragic sufferings of Mariam (15), from al-Qusair, have only just come to light, but happened during the rebel occupation of the town, which was recaptured by the Syrian army at the beginning of June. 
Mariam was seized by militants linked to the al-Nusra Front (aka Jabhat al-Nusra), which has become one of the leading rebel groups fighting against President Bashar al-Assad. Her family managed to escape the town.

One of the Islamists “married” and raped the 15-year-old before ' repudiating' her. The following day, she was forced to marry another militant who also raped her and then 'repudiated' her. Mariam was repeatedly subjected to this terrifying ordeal by different men for 15 days, leaving her psychologically disturbed.  The militants eventually and, one might say, almost mercifully, killed the Christian teenager.

The rebels in Syria have been encouraged to rape non-Sunni women as part of their campaign. Earlier this year, sheikh Yasir al-Ajlawni issued a fatwa saying it was “legitimate” for Muslim fighters who are trying to put in place an Islamist government to “capture and have sex with” Alawites, the sect to which President Assad belongs, and other non-Sunni, non-Muslim women. 

It followed a similar edict by Saudi cleric Muhammad al-Arifi in which he told jihadi fighters that they had the right to have sexual intercourse with captured Syrian women.  Girls, and young women, from Christian families are particularly prone to such sexual abuse.  Indeed, thousands of Christians were forced to flee al-Qusair during its takeover by the rebels last year. They started to return after government troops recaptured the town, finding a scene of almost total devastation.

Church leaders have been gathering accounts from Christian families such as Mariam’s about their sufferings at rebel hands.  While it may well be true that the Syrian government is not as pure as light in the civil war that has had such a negative effect on the country, such abuse of the vulnerable has no part in any conflict.  Let those of us who believe in the power of prayer be faithful in upholding Syria - and womankind everywhere - before the throne of grace.

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