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Washington, D.C. (May 4, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Christian communities throughout Syria have been attacked by anti-government protestors led by hard-line Islamists in recent weeks. Christians have also been pressured to either join protests demanding the resignation of President Bashir Assad or else flee the county. With the mass immigration of Christians from the Middle East, notably from Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories, Islamic groups are now threatening to drive Christians out of Syria.

Last week in Duma, a suburb of Damascus, protestors chanted, “Alawites to the grave and Christians to Beirut!” according to an ICC source and, a Lebanese news agency. Christians in Syria are concerned that the agenda of many hard-line Islamists in Syria, including the Salafists, 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 the anti-government protests or leave.

In Karak, a village near Dara’a, Salafists forced villagers to join the anti-government protests and remove photos of President Bashir from their homes. Witnesses reported that a young 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.”

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 not participated in protests, anticipating that chaos and bloodshed will follow if radical Islam takes hold of the country. Throughout the Middle East, Christians have been fleeing their homeland in unprecedented numbers. Now, in a country where Christians have historically taken refuge from nearby purges in places like Turkey a century ago and Iraq in recent years, Islamists are threatening their existence. 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 radical Islamists to carry out their anti-Christian agenda.”

For interviews, contact Aidan Clay, Regional Manager for the Middle East: [email protected].