The Armenian Catholic Church of the Holy Martyrs was built in Raqqa in 1970 along with a parish hall and a school. Until 1990 the parish numbered around 500 Christians families. Massive migration reduced the parish to 50 families. A priest lived in the presbytery and Sunday Mass was still celebrated regularly.
In spring 2013, jihadist forces captured the city of Raqqa from government troops. They occupied Christians’ homes and started to trade petroleum with Turkey to buy arms.
ISIS militants stuck to the same devastating script they had followed in so many places: the destruction, violence and executions of members of the religious minorities living in Raqqa – and, of course, Christians were among those targeted. ISIS declared Raqqa to be their capital. It was the first city to be cleansed of Christians through the imposition of the jizya tax. Many churches were burned down, e.g. the Melkite Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation. Others, like the Armenian Catholic Church of the Holy Martyrs, were heavily damaged. First it was converted into a hall forming part of ISIS’s Islamic law court. Later it was devastated: the belfry destroyed, the
sanctuary severely damaged and looted.