A violent explosion destroyed the church and convent of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in Deir Ezzor, in Mesopotamia on 15 April, Fides reports. Fr Tony Haddad, Vice-Provincial of the Friars for the Near East, who oversees the Capuchin presence in Lebanon and Syria said: "It was the only church in Deir Ezzor still remained almost untouched so far."
It is not clear how the church was destroyed. According to some reports, the church had been breached and some opposition fighters were stationed there. The regular army then hit the church, destroying it. Others speak of a car bomb placed next to the structure. Fr Haddad said amidst all the "hate and desecration" all Christians living in the area have now fled.
"There are no more Christians," he said. Given the critical situation, he added: "our two friars who lived in the convent left Deir Ezzor with the Sisters of Mother Teresa and ten elders who lived with us. They were the last remaining Christians. I thank the Lord that the two friars are alive and well. The church of stones can be rebuilt one day, when a spring of peace will appear in our Middle East, " said Fr Haddad.
Deir Ezzor is a city in eastern Syria, beyond the Euphrates, between Palmyra and the Iraqi border. "Our presence there dates back to the thirties of last century, but we have been in the Middle East for much longer," said Fr Tony.
"In almost four centuries of history, our Vice-Province has suffered several destructions and persecutions, but it has always risen, with the Risen Christ."
Another community of Capuchin Franciscan friars still remains in southern Syria, in Soueida - where two friars live.
According to Syrian opposition activists, recently army planes bombed two Syriac Orthodox churches in Deir Ezzor and Christian families have left the city due to the intensification of clashes between loyalist and opposition forces. The Syrian Orthodox Church affirms that its churches have been affected in all the provinces, in Harasta, Arbin, Zabadani, Deraa, Aleppo, Damascus, Raqqa.