In the midst of the civil war in Syria that has taken more than 100,000 lives, Syria’s 2 million Christians are in an extremely dangerous position. Under President al-Assad the situation had been stable, who himself from a minority had not wanted to lose the support of minorities. The opposition to Assad had begun as a movement for greater freedoms and rights but has been largely co-opted by militant Islamist groups including ties to radical extremists. This has led to a purging of non-Sunni’s from many rebel controlled areas. For the Christians it has left them with nowhere to turn, and even those who have fled Syria still are in fear of targeting because they are Christians.
By Ammar Cheikhomar and Henry Austin
08/11/2013 Syria (NBC News) – St. Paul found God on the road to Damascus and St. Peter is said to have preached there, but now one of the world’s oldest Christian communities is caught in the middle of Syria’s bloody civil war.
Distrustful of President Bashar Assad’s regime, many of Syria’s 2 million Christians also feel threatened by the increasing number of al Qaeda extremists boosting the ranks of rebel forces.
Before the two-year conflict — which the United Nations estimates has claimed more than 100,000 lives — Christians made up about 10 percent of Syria’s population.
Many Christians feel that neither Assad nor the rebels represent their interests and tens of thousands have now fled to neighboring Turkey and Lebanon.
Amjad Hadad is one of the few Christians to take up arms. The 37-year-old said Christian silence should not be interpreted as support for Assad.
“We are fighting beside our Sunni brothers, Alewites, Shiites , Jews and Druze, and all other sects and minorities against the Syrian regime,” said Hadad, the commander of a Christian batallion of the FSA. “It’s our duty.”
He added: “We are part of the Syrian people, we shared with these people joy and happiness and beautiful days and now we must share with them in these difficult days.”
However, many others have fled their homes instead of fighting.
Todd Daniels, regional manager for the Middle East for the non-denominational watchdog International Christian Concern, last week met with many Syrians who had escaped to Turkey. He said many were frightened to go to refugee camps, even after fleeing across the border.
They are scared of being identified as Christians, because they fear violence against them,” he said. “The Turkish government opened a camp with a partition for Christians, but as of two weeks ago there wasn’t a single Christian in there, because of that fear.”
He added that some refugees had sought refuge in churches and many were trying to rent apartments on their own as they try to avoid persecution.