Take action!
How to Get Involved
 
 

Christians in Syria BelieveThey are Targeted by Syrian Rebel Groups

ICC Note:

As Christian towns and neighborhoods in Syria are becoming caught up in Syria's civil war, many Christians feel that they are being targeted for violence by rebel groups fighting government forces. Recently, two major Christian areas, Sadad and Maaloula, have been taken by rebel forces and then re-taken by government forces. When rebel groups took these areas, churches were vandalized and many Christians fled, fearing rebels would assume they support the government forces and punish them. Syria's civil war has left the Christian community to with the unanswerable question of who should they support. The future of this community, which makes up 10% of Syria's population, remains unclear.  

10/30/2013 Syria (Washington Post) - Sami Amir is used to the deep echoing rumble of the Syrian army artillery pounding rebel positions on the outskirts of Damascus. It’s the thump of mortars launched from an Islamist-controlled neighborhood that scares him to death.

The mortars have repeatedly hit in his mainly Christian district of Damascus, al-Qassaa, reportedly killing at least 32 people and injuring dozens of others the past two weeks.

“You don’t know when and you don’t know where they hit,” says Amir, a 55-year-old Christian merchant. “Life here is often too difficult.”

Rebel shelling into the capital has increasingly hit several majority-Christian districts, particularly al-Qassaa, with its wide avenues, middle class apartment blocks, leafy parks, popular restaurants and shopping streets busy with pedestrians.

The shelling and recent rebel assaults on predominantly Christian towns have fueled fears among Syria’s religious minorities about the growing role of Islamic extremists and foreign fighters among the rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad’s rule. Christians believe they are being targeted — in part because of the anti-Christian sentiment among extremists and in part as punishment for what is seen as their support for Assad.

Though some Christians oppose Assad’s brutal crackdown on the opposition and the community has tried to stay on the sidelines in the civil war, the rebellion’s increasingly outspoken Islamist rhetoric and the prominent role of Islamic extremist fighters have pushed them toward support of the government. Christians make up about 10 percent of Syria’s 23 million people.

“When you bring a Christian and make him choose between Assad and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the answer is clear,” said Hilal Khashan, a political scientist professor at the American University of Beirut, referring to the al-Qaida branch fighting alongside the rebels. “It doesn’t need much thinking.”

The rebels have targeted other Syrian minorities, particularly Alawites, the Shiite offshoot sect to which Assad belongs and which is his main support base. Altogether, ethnic and religious minorities — also including Kurds and Druze — make up a quarter of Syria’s population. The majority, and most rebels, are Sunni Muslim.

But Christian areas have recently been the focus of fighting.

A week ago, rebels from the al-Qaida-linked group Jabhat al-Nusra attacked the Christian town of Sadad, north of Damascus, seizing control until they were driven out Monday after fierce fighting with government forces. The rebels appear to have targeted the town because of its strategic location near the main highway north of Damascus, rather than because it is Christian.

Still, SANA reported Monday that the rebels in Sadad vandalized the town’s Saint Theodore Church, along with much of Sadad’s infrastructure.

Similarly, thousands fled the ancient Christian-majority town of Maaloula when rebels took control of it last month, holding it for several days until government forces retook it. With rebels in the hills around the town, those who fled are still too afraid to return.

Two bishops were abducted in rebel-held areas in April, and an Italian Jesuit priest, Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, went missing in July after traveling to meet al-Qaida militants in the rebel-held northeastern city of Raqqa. None has been heard from since.

In August, rebel gunmen killed 11 people in a drive-by shooting in central Syria as Christians celebrated a feast day. Activists said at the time that many of those killed were pro-government militiamen manning checkpoints.

Al-Qaida-linked fighters have damaged and desecrated churches in areas they have seized. In Raqqa, militants set fires in two churches and knocked the crosses off them, replacing them with the group’s black Islamic banner. Jihadis also torched an Armenian church in the northern town of Tel Abyad on Sunday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad group that tracks the war through a network of activists on the ground.

The apparent deliberate campaign against Christians and other minorities have stoked worries in Washington and many European capitals over providing advanced weaponry to the mainstream opposition Free Syria Army, amid fears the arms will end up in the hands of extremists.

Christians in Damascus are convinced that extremists are deliberately targeting their neighborhoods as rebels battle government forces trying to uproot them from the towns they control outside the capital. Al-Qassaa is close to besieged rebel-held suburbs where Muslim residents have pleaded for international help to save them from starvation and constant government bombardment.

“Recently I noticed that every Sunday, they launch more than 15 mortars a day,” Amir said. “They are targeting specifically Christian areas.”

...

[Full Story]

Tags: ,

Forward to a friend
  • Kids

    Care for orphans and hurting children

    read more
  • Families

    Support wives and children of imprisoned or martyed pastors

    read more
  • Pastors

    Spread the gospel by supporting underground pastors

    read more
  • Women

    Save women from abduction and sexual exploitation

    read more
  • Communities

    Help rebuild communities devastated by persecution

    read more

Other Projects

other projects

ICC is constantly monitoring the state of Christian persecution in countries around the world and looking for ways that we can act as bridge between our supporters and the persecuted church. Beyond the projects you see above, we are working in many other areas to provide practical assistance to our brothers and sisters in Christ. View our other projects page to understand more of our work and keep up to date on our current projects.