Friars showing the spine of steel vacant from the multitudes of fighting aged men flowing into Europe.
After serious deliberation, the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, a group of monks living in territory occupied by the Islamic State in Syria, have made the decision to stay on despite the dangers, insisting that a good shepherd never abandons his sheep.
In recent days, the Prior of the community, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, took a survey among his confreres asking whether whether in the face of new risks of violence and persecution it was better to stay on with the few remaining Christians or to move to safer territory.
The number of local Christians in the parishes of the Syrian villages under the control of Islamist forces continues to dwindle as many leave on their own or are driven out. Moreover, outright persecution against the Christians has also increased. Not long ago, one of the Franciscans, Father Dhiya Azziz, was abducted by Islamist militants, and only released after 12 days of detention.