Four Years Later Syria Continues in Conflict
The Past and the Future of Syria’s Christian Community is Being Destroyed
3/15/2015 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) marks with sadness the conflict in Syria that today entered its fifth year of conflict. The protests following the detention of 15 children for writing pro-democracy graffiti have resulted in one of the most brutal conflicts in recent history. In the four years since the conflict began, militant Islamic jihadists have streamed into the country fighting not just against the brutality of Bashar al-Assad, but also to establish an Islamic state. As the February abduction of more 250 Assyrian Christians demonstrated again, Syria’s Christian community and other ethnic or religious minorities are being explicitly targeted and killed or driven out of the country.
In 2014, the conflict in Syria spilled across the border into Iraq. The group known as ISIS, Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham or the Islamic State, extended their control over a wide swath of land across the northern part of Syria into western and central Iraq. The capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, displaced hundreds of thousands more and set the stage for the declaration of an Islamic caliphate. The jihadist group regularly grabbed headlines with their brutal executions of hostages from Western journalists, to captured airline pilots, to Coptic Christians. Their goal, informed by their beliefs about the Islamic end times, has been the establishment of an Islamic state and this requires the subjugation or elimination of those who do not share their beliefs. Their acts have grown to include the removal of not just entire religious and ethnic communities, but the erasure of their history as they’ve destroyed centuries old historic sites, including churches, monasteries, and libraries.
As the international community has wavered in how to confront the jihadist opposition forces, the regime of Bashar al-Assad has been guilty of many atrocities of its own. As of today, 215,518 deaths have been documented, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The actual figure is likely to be much higher, and of those more than 100,000 are civilians, including more than 10,000 children.
The ongoing conflict has completely destroyed the infrastructure of the country. As striking satellite images have shown, 83% of the lights have gone out across Syria, since the conflict started in 2011. Nearly 4 million Syrians are registered as refugees in neighboring countries, and an additional 7.6 million internally displaced within the country. 3 million school-aged children are no longer in school as a result of the conflict, an entire generation is growing up displaced from their homes and deprived of future opportunities.
The sad reality is that for many of them the feeling is that they will never return. As Safer, who was forced to abandon his seminary studies and flee with his mom and two brothers after his dad was executed, told ICC, “We can’t go back to Syria, there is no future for us there.”
This is the message being received by a Christian community who have been the targets of religiously motivated attacks, including beheadings, executions, rape, kidnapping, and destruction or seizure of homes and churches. These atrocities have been committed by many of the groups that have benefited from support of the “opposition groups.”
As today the world marked the fourth anniversary of the conflict, and its fifth year began we must consider the cost of what is being lost in Syria. The lands that were the birthplace of Christianity, from where the church first launched, are now witnessing the extermination of nearly all visible presence of Christianity. As we push for an end to the conflict in Syria, we support must be a Syria for all Syrians, including the Christian community and we must ensure the voice of Syria’s Christians is clearly heard.
Todd Daniels, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “It is heart-breaking to witness the continuing devastation as a result of the war in Syria. Entire religious communities are being wiped out. In single attacks, Christian villages and centuries of their history has been destroyed. It is not just the past that is being lost, but the future as well as an entire generation is growing up displaced by this conflict. We strongly support the call for an end to the hostilities in such a way that creates a Syria where all of its citizens – including Christians – are able to freely live and carry out their faith. We urge world leaders to act quickly, and decisively to make this a reality.”
For interviews, contact Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East: RM-ME@persecution.org
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