Washington, D.C. (May 4, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Christian communities in Syria have been threatened by Salafi protestors in recent weeks. While Christians desire peace, some have been intimidated by Salafis to either join protests demanding the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad or else flee the county. With the mass immigration of Christians from the Middle East, notably from Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories, Salafis have threatened to push Christians out of Syria.
Last week in Duma, a suburb of Damascus, Salafis chanted, “Alawites to the grave and Christians to Beirut!” according to an ICC source and Tayyar.org, a Lebanese news agency. Christians in Syria are concerned that the agenda of many hard-line Islamists in Syria, including the Salafis, is to take over the government and kick Christians out of the country. “If Muslim Salafis gain political influence, they will make sure that there will be no trace of Christianity in Syria,” a Syrian Christian leader told ICC.
In a Christian village outside of Dara’a, in southern Syria, eye witnesses reported that twenty masked men on motorcycles opened fire on a Christian home while shouting malicious remarks against Christians in the street. According to another ICC source in Syria, churches received threatening letters during the Easter holidays telling them to join Salafi protestors or leave.
In Karak, a village near Dara’a, Salafis forced villagers to join anti-government protests and remove photos of President Assad from their homes. Witnesses reported that a young Muslim man who refused to remove a photo was found hanged on his front porch the next morning.
“People want to go out and peacefully ask for certain changes, but Muslim Salafi groups are sneaking in with their goal, which is not to make changes for the betterment of Syria, but to take over the country with their agenda,” said the Syrian Christian leader. “We want to improve life and rights in Syria under this president, but we do not want terrorism. Christians will be first to pay the price of terrorism. What Christians are asking for is the realization that when changes are happening, it should happen not under certain agendas or for certain people, but for the people of Syria in a peaceful way under the current government.”
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Unlike in Egypt, where Christians predominantly supported the revolution that removed President Hosni Mubarak from power, Syrian Christians have desired peace while demanding greater freedoms under the current government. Christians anticipate that only chaos and bloodshed will follow if Salafi demands are met. We urge the U.S. government to act wisely and carefully when developing policies that have deep political ramifications for Syria’s minorities by not indirectly supporting a foothold to be used by Salafis to carry out their radical agenda.”
For interviews, contact Aidan Clay, Regional Manager for the Middle East: firstname.lastname@example.org