SHAFAQNA – ChristianÂ and Muslim leaders in Worcester say they stand together against Isis after fanatics destroyed a Roman temple, beheaded an antiquities scholar and demolished a monastery in Syria.
The Right Reverend Dr John Inge has spoken of the good relationship between Worcester’s Christians and Muslims following the destruction of the temple which formed part of the ancient caravan city of Palmyra north-east of Damascus which is a UNESCO world heritage site.
His views were echoed by Haris Saleem, chairman of the Worcester Muslim Welfare Association, who said people should ‘respect and protect each other’, branding the views of Isis ‘a narrow-minded ideology’ and said he stood together with the rest of the community against them.
Fanatics in Syria also beheaded the 82-year-old antiquities scholar Khaled al-Asaad whose name was synonymous with the ancient city and who refused to give the terrorists the location of Palmyra’s greatest treasures.
Isis has also destroyed a 1,500 year-old monastery in Syria visited by Christians and Muslims alike who revered the saint’s tomb. The monastery of Saint Eliane was considered a symbol of cohesion and ‘symbiosis’ between Christians and Muslims.
Bishop John said the actions of so-called Islamic State did not reflect those of ‘true Islam’ and were a ‘far cry from the attitudes of any Muslims I have ever known’.
He said: “Christians and Muslims have lived happily alongside one another throughout the Middle East and particularly in Syria and Iraq for many centuries.
“What is happening there now is an appalling tragedy of unprecedented proportions. The majority of victims are Muslims who are being killed and oppressed by fanatics but Christians are especially vulnerable to dreadful persecution.
“The tragedy is not just a human but a cultural one: the destruction of parts of Palmyra, a World Heritage Site, and the fifth century monastery of Saint Eliane represent an irreparable loss.
“The whole situation is heartbreaking and I hope and pray with all my heart that the civilised values which all civilised human beings hold in common, whatever their creed, will very soon prevail.
“We value good relations with our Muslim friends in Worcester and long may it continue.”
Isis blew up Palmyra’s Baalshamin temple which had stood at the site for nearly 2,000 years on Sunday, August 23.
The city is unique in combining Graeco-Roman art with indigenous and Iranian influences and was at times independent from the Roman empire and ruled by it.
Islamic State has also demolished a monastery founded more than 1,500 years ago in central Syria, near a town where the extremists abducted dozens of Christians earlier this month.
The destruction of the Saint Eliane monastery near the town of Qaryatain comes days after Isis militants in Palmyra publicly beheaded the antiquities scholar who had dedicated his life to studying and overseeing the townâ€™s ancient ruins.
The developments have sparked fears that Isis may be accelerating its campaign to destroy and loot non-Islamic and pre-Islamic heritage sites inside the areas of Iraq and Syria it controls.
Haris Saleem, chairman of the Worcester Muslim Welfare Association, said: “Respect humanity and the symbols of the community whether they are temples, churches or gudwaras. Everyone should have the right to their religious beliefs.”
He said of Isis: “They have no respect. They have been killing Muslims. Anyone who is against them they start killing them. It’s very sad.”
He said the Muslims of the past who were ‘much better people’ than Isis, had left these buildings untouched.