Lebanon is worried that Christians in Syria will be persecuted in the wake of the takeover of a Christian village near Damascus by Syrian rebels.
The conquest of the village of Ma'alula, north of Damascus, by rebel group associated with Al Qaeda, endangers a hundreds of years old community and threatens them with decimation, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said Monday.
Ma'alula, a Maronite Christian village, was conquered over the weekend by radical Islamists, and already dozens of buildings have been burned down or looted, news agencies reported. A number of churches have been burned down as well. The reports said that Syrian army forces had taken up positions around the town and were trying to retake the it.
Suleiman, himself a Maronite Christian, called on the rebel groups to respect international law and observe the rules of war. Suleiman spoke to French President Francoise Hollande and expressed his concern over the situation. France, the former colonial power in Lebanon, considers itself an international protector of Maronite Christians in Syria and Lebanon.
Christians in Syria have generally been supportive of Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, but have not taken part in the fighting. Most Christian towns have been relatively calm, but Christians fear that the takeover of Ma'alula could signal a change for the worse.