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ICC Note: More than 700,000 Christians are believed to have left Syria, but hundreds of thousands remain, their lives in danger. For Syrian Christians who live abroad they are daily in fear for their relatives. They fear that the news of a new mortar strike on a school will be the school of their niece, or the village taken by Islamic extremists is that of their cousin. The human reality makes the need for political and humanitarian solutions a desperate reality.

09/29/2015 Syria (BuzzFeed) – Angela’s talks with her family in Syria are brief.

“Anytime there is a bomb there or something we always call and say, ‘Are you good? Is it far from where you are?’” she told BuzzFeed News. Living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Angela said she and her family can’t offer much more than moral support to her relatives still in Syria, like answering her uncle’s calls during the brief periods he has electricity.

As thousands of refugees of all religions flee the country — now in its fourth year of an intractable war between government, rebel, and ISIS forces — to make the grueling and dangerous journey to Europe, Angela’s extended family opted instead to stay in their homeland and apply for visas. (Angela’s name and the names of her family members have been changed out of their fear for their relatives’ safety.)

The recent history of Syrian Christians — an umbrella term for the diverse minority group of Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, and others — has gone from being accepted under Bashar Al-Assad’s regime to becoming a persecuted class. Their plight has been an ongoing concern for human rights advocates since the beginning of the war in 2011. Since then, more than 700,000 Christian Syrians have left the country, according to Open Doors International, a U.K.-based organization tracking the persecution of Christians.

Angela’s family comes from a long line of Syrian Christians, who have become special targets for ISIS and other Islamist rebel groups because of their faith and a belief that all — instead of some — Christians support President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, said Princeton historian Christian Sahner and author of Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present. As a result, the world’s oldest Christian community along with its churches, books, and icons are slowly being erased.

Last winter, Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, an Islamist group competing with ISIS for control of Syria, held a group of Greek Orthodox nuns — along with 150 other Syrian women and children — hostage for four months in Syria until it released them through a prisoner exchange facilitated by officials from Qatar and Lebanon. When ISIS took the city of Qariyatain, in Homs Province, last August, it demolished the Syrian Catholic Saint Elian Monastery and kidnapped 250 Syrians from the town who still remain missing.

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