Eleven Christians have been martyred for their faith in a village near Aleppo. They were all members of a humanitarian missionary organisation which made them a particular target. The director had repeatedly urged them to leave but the refused, telling him they were certain they had a vocation to be there.
The ISIS insurgents offered them the choice of conversion or death. All the adults chose death, and they were executed in two groups.
The first group consisted of a team leader aged 41 and two of his assistants, aged in their twenties. They were flogged, then crucified in a public place in front of a large crowd. with placards round their necks saying "infidel". When crucified it took them two days to die. The 12-year-old son of the team leader agreed to convert and was spared.
The second lot consisted of eight team members, including two women, aged 29 and 33. The executioners publicly raped them before crucifying them along with the men. While they endured this, the women continued to pray aloud, which goaded their attackers to treat them even more violently.
All eight victims were then told to line up on their knees, blindfold, and praying to the very end, they were decapitated.
Nevertheless, an underground church network still survives in Syria and those in it say that the sight of these people dying with such unshaken faith has led many who witnessed it, or even heard of it, to convert.
Lenten Meditations: Saturday 25 March
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