(Vatican 2015-02-24) Activists say so-called Islamic State militants have kidnapped dozens of Assyrian Christians, including women and children, after capturing several villages in northeastern Syria. This latest assault by I.S. fighters began on Monday when the militants swept through a string of villages near the town of Tal Tamr and seized between 70 and 90 Christians. Up to 3,000 people managed to escape the onslaught and have sought refuge in neighbouring cities. Susy Hodges asked John Newton of the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, whether he believed the Assyrian Christians were targeted because of their faith?

Newton said the villages that were captured by the IS militants were of strategic importance and that could have played a part in the decision to seize them.

Antipathy towards minorities

At the same time, he pointed out that minorities in both Syria and Iraq have frequently “been singled out for attack” by the IS militants and noted that when they seized two of the villages, the churches in them were “torched” which shows their “antipathy” towards those who do not share their particular vision of religion.

Fear sweeping the region

Noting that hundreds of Christian families have fled the area near the town of Tal Tamr to seek refuge in the cities of Hassakeh and Qamishli, Newton said “Obviously there is a great deal of fear that is sweeping the region as the IS militants advance.”