"Most of them were students at the university, young people who had not left the city. So what sort of message does this attack send out now? I believe they were deliberately targeted."

These were the words of Father Hilal Ziad, S.J., commenting on the Jan. 21 midday car bomb explosion that killed 15 and wounded 50 others in the center of Homs. The killing was indiscriminate, and there were Christians among both the dead and the wounded.

The priest told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that "the attack was staged very close to our church and our aid center."

"We do not know who was behind it, but it is a tragedy. The pictures of the attack are horrifying. We are visiting the families of the victims and trying to comfort them. But what can anyone say in such a situation? We are all deeply saddened and devastated."

Newly under Syrian government control, Homs, the third-largest city in Syria, was for several years the site of a bloody stand-off between the regime and rebel forces of various stripes, both secular and Islamist.

Fr. Ziad is among a group of clergy caring for Christians who remained stranded in the town's center. In April of 2014, a fellow Jesuit, Fr. Frans van der Lugt, was assassinated by an unknown gunman.

In the past year alone, 80,000 Christians were forced to leave their homes. Thanks to the aid centers run by Fr. Ziad and his fellow clergy, food, clothing and items of basic hygiene have been distributed to thousands of victims, regardless of their religion or political outlook.

Fr. Ziad expressed dismay at the lack of any reaction on the part of the world media: "Where is the reaction from the rest of the world?"

"After the attacks in Paris all eyes were on France. But here? As far as I am aware, there has not been any reaction by anybody. Not a word. Only silence. Syria and the daily sufferings of its people are forgotten."

In October 2014, a double bomb blast killed 50 people.

It is estimated that some 200,000 people have died since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, among them many thousands of Christians.


Oliver Maksan writes for Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA);www.acnuk.org (UK);www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL);www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)