Hama, Syria, January 26, 2012
|Hieromonk Bassilious Nasser was shot on January 25 in Hama during a military strike, as he was giving first aide to an injured man.|
The Syrian state news agency blamed an “armed terrorist group” for the killing, while opposition activists in Hama said the priest was shot by a government sniper.
The Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC), an umbrella opposition group, identified the priest as Basilious Nassar of the nearby town of Kafr Buhum. He died as militia members pushed into various neighborhoods in Hama, a bastion of Syria’s anti-regime sentiment, according to the LCC.
In Hama, four people died on the second day of a government bombardment, LCC said.
One of them was a Christian priest, Father Bassilius Nassar, who was helping a wounded man.
Orthodox Christians make up 65% of the total number of Christians in Syria, which in turn make up around 8% of the total population, or around 1.5 million people.
The current president of Syria, Bashar Asad is an Alawi Muslim, as was his father, Hafez Asad. The Asads have characterized their politics as “secular Pan-Arabism”. In 1982, Hama was already the center of an Islamic uprising, which was put down by the Syrian army.
Hieromonk Bassilious Nasser, now the first Orthodox priest to die as a result of the strife in Syria, was born in 1982 in a town near the city of Hama. He was a graduate of the St. John Damascene Theological Institute in Balamand, served in the city of Hama and the outlying villages, and taught Byzantine chant at the music school of Cosmas Mayum which he himself established in the metropolia of Epiphanes of the Antiochian Orthodox Church.