Special to WorldTribune.com
What are believed to be the bones of a Christian saint were discovered amid the rubble of a monastery in Syria that was destroyed by Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).
The bones were unearthed near the fifth-century St. Elian, or Mar Elian, monastery in the town of Qaryatain, which was recaptured by Syrian government forces on April 3.
The bones are thought to be those of St. Elian, also known as St. Julian of Emesa, which is the ancient name for the Syrian city of Homs. St. Elian was martyred in 284 A.D. after his refusal to renounce Christianity.
ISIL destroyed the monastery in August of last year, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.
“They pulled it down using bulldozers claiming that ‘the monastery is worshiped beside Allah,’ ” the Observatory said.
ISIL jihadists also damaged an ancient church next to the Assyrian Christian monastery, and desecrated a nearby cemetery, breaking crosses and smashing name plates.
Before ISIL seized controls of the city last August, Qaryatain had a mixed population of around 40,000 Sunni Muslims and Christians.
More than 200 residents, mostly Christians, were abducted by ISIL, including a Syrian priest, the Rev. Jack Murad, who was held for three months.
During the eight months that Qaryatain was under ISIL control, some Christians were released, some were made to sign pledges to pay a tax imposed on non-Muslims, while others simply vanished.