The Syrian city of Latakia witnessed, on Wednesday evening, an incident that had never happened in the “history of Eastern Christianity”, according to experts, as the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Interior announced that “Father George Rafik Hosh committed suicide by shooting himself in the St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral.”
The ministry said in a statement that “Hosh shot himself with his own pistol, due to psychological and social pressures,” in a story that was questioned by academics and researchers, whom the “Al-Hurra” website spoke to, considering that what happened was a “murder, not a suicide”, as well as a “message of intimidation.” .
Since it was announced, in the past hours, this incident has raised a lot of strangeness and questions, while the “Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Latakia and its Dependencies” issued a statement saying that “Phate George Rafik Hosh ended his life by shooting himself inside St. George’s Cathedral.”
The Archdiocese added in the statement: “This surprising behavior came as a result of accumulated psychological and social pressures.”
“Father George” was in the village of Haluz in the western countryside of Idlib, before he moved to the city of Lattakia, during the battles that led to the withdrawal of the Syrian regime forces from that area.
“Mystery and intimidation”
St. George’s Cathedral is one of the oldest and largest churches of the Greek Orthodox sect in the city of Latakia. According to the Syrian media, Ayman Abdel Nour, “Al-Khoury had suspended his service, similar to his retirement, about eight months ago.”
Father’s suicide #George_Hosh By shooting himself while praying in the Greek Orthodox “Mar George” cathedral in the city of “Latakia”, which led to his death instantly..without knowing the reasons pic.twitter.com/3vTDvKKLxR
— Mahran Haidar (@haidar_mahran) April 7, 2022
While Abdel Nour tells Al-Hurra that “things related to the incident are not clear” until now, the Syrian researcher and academic Dr. Samira Moubayed believes that “promoting the story of Father George shooting himself is naive and adopting the regime’s lies, which were repeated during the numerous assassinations he carried out.” “.
Moubayed continues in an interview with Al-Hurra: “How rather, if the assassination of a Christian cleric and the regime claims to protect Christians, especially because it is located in Latakia and within the sanctuary of the Temple, that is, it cannot happen arbitrarily.”
The Syrian Academy adds: “It is linked to a security agency and has a clear goal, which is to intimidate the Christians in the region and displace them or push them to despair and apprehension.”
“This confirms how to bring out the criminal scene that simulates many scenes that the regime carried out in Christian neighborhoods and towns in collusion with terrorist organizations to constantly abuse and intimidate Christians,” according to the same spokeswoman.
The statement of the “Syrian Ministry of Interior” had stated that after sending a patrol from the “Criminal Security Branch” to the cathedral, “the priest George Hosh was seen sitting on a chair, with a gunshot wound to the chest and the pistol lying on the ground next to him.”
The statement added that “the medical and judicial examination board attended after that, and it was found that the cause of death was a bleeding trauma following a gunshot wound to the chest towards the back.”
These details were interacted with by Syrian users via social networking sites, with skepticism.
George Anton wrote on Facebook: “The case of Father George Hosh’s suicide is very strange, and it may be the only precedent in history for a cleric to kill himself.”
And Anton Al-Khamis added: “The strange thing about the story is also that a clergyman owns a pistol. A clergyman enters the church with a pistol. It is common knowledge that whoever commits suicide shoots a bullet in the head and not in the chest. Whoever wants to commit suicide commits suicide in his home and not in the church.”
He continued: “One of the biggest sins in all religions, including the Christian religion, for the average person, is suicide. He does not pray for him, and his body is not entered through the cemetery door, so how can a cleric known for his kindness, faith and help for all commit this major sin!”
For his part, Suleiman Yousef, a Syrian Assyrian researcher and activist interested in minority issues and human rights, said that “there are many doubts and questions about the fact that he committed suicide, or is there a murder?”
Regarding the Khoury case #George_Hosh who occupied public opinion #syrian yesterday
I saw this comment for a friend and I wanted to spread it here
Frankly speaking, very convincing.. the story is ambiguous
I don’t know how they came up with a result immediately, and the investigations are supposed to take their time pic.twitter.com/O3GlrnJk43
— Kenan Hassab (@kenan_hassab) April 7, 2022
Youssef explained: “It did not happen in the history of Eastern Christianity that a priest committed suicide inside the church’s structure and during prayer.”
A message of intimidation for Christians
In early January 2020, the American “Christians Post” website published an article under the title “Christians of Syria face threats from its president.”
In one of its sub-headings, “The free practice of religion is restricted,” the article referred to the Syrian regime’s violations against Christian clerics, including controlling church leaders and infiltrating them through spies, to prevent the emergence of opponents in the Christian community, adopting the “intimidation” model.
Regarding violations against Syrian Christians, the article documented the disappearance of a number of Christian clerics, including the Syriac Orthodox Bishop Youhanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Bishop Paul Yazigi, who were kidnapped in Aleppo in 2013, days after they criticized a pro-Syrian bishop.
This intersects with the above with the speech of the Syrian academic, Samira Moubayed, who considered that “Christians today constitute the biggest obstacle to transforming Syria into warring regions based on sectarian and nationalist bases that lead to the complete collapse of Syria, and to consolidate its sharing between authoritarian and de facto forces.”
Moubayed added, “This is based on the fact that they are present in all Syrian regions without exception, and from all nationalities, cultures and societal structures, and their connection to all the historical eras that established Syria. Therefore, they constitute a threat to the project of the current system, system and opposition, with continuity.”
The Syrian Academy does not consider the political positions of “Father George” to be the “essence of the hadith.”
And that point had been raised by Syrians on social media, in reference to the state of support for the Syrian regime, which was mentioned in it.
Moubayed continued, “The murderers and display of his body in this humiliating way, and then promoting the lie of suicide is a message of intimidation for the Syrian Christians, and clearly indicates their insecurity in light of the current system based on the adoption of sedition and armed violence between Syrians.”
Syria ranks penultimately (162 out of 163) on the Global Peace Index, issued by the “Vision of Humanity”.
Last February, the Director-General of the General Authority for Forensic Medicine, Zaher Hajjo, announced that the governorates under the control of the Syrian regime witnessed 13 suicide cases last January, 10 of which were males and three were women.
All of these cases relate to ordinary citizens, but “how can there be clergy among them?” If the “Syrian Interior Ministry” account of “Father George” is correct.
Syrian doctor and writer Haifa Bitar wrote on Facebook: “Al-Khoury was nice and humble, but he is married and has children. Perhaps he is unable to provide for his children’s needs. Perhaps he is subjected to pressures that are not commensurate with his ideas. Christ on earth, and between a society in which corruption, bribery, oppression, people of queues, slander and poverty are exploited,” she said, adding that “the suicide of a priest in the church and in the presence of people is a very painful message. A message as if he announces his surrender to despair, and that he no longer believes in salvation.”