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07/25/2022 Syria (International Christian Concern) – At the crowded inauguration ceremony of a church in Syria yesterday, a rocket attack killed two people and injured 12. Video footage of the rocket attack shows a large explosion directly in front of the Greek Orthodox Hagia Sophia Church in Al-Suqaylabiyah, near Hama. In addition to the civilian victims of the bombing, the church sustained damage as a result of the attack. Syrian state media attributed the bombing to unspecified “terrorist organizations.” 

Jeff King, President of ICC, said, “We are saddened by the news of Sunday’s attack against Christians in Syria. Throughout the civil war, the Syrian government, Turkey, Russia, and others compete for influence across the country. Sunday’s attack is a painful reminder that this competition repeatedly places innocent Christians in the crossfire of regional violence. Warring parties in Syria have once again shown unacceptable disregard for civilian life. Our prayers are with the victims of this attack.” 

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, John X, condemned the attack, offered condolences for those killed, and wished a speedy recovery for those injured. He lamented, “Our children in Suqaylabiyah are paying the price of their faith with blood. What happened in Suqaylabiyah is a despicable and reprehensible act of terrorism.” 

The Hagia Sophia Church in Al-Suqaylabiyah was built to be a mini “replica” of the Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul. It was commissioned by Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government with the support of the Russian government in 2020. The commission was given shortly after Turkey converted the original Hagia Sophia Church into a Mosque. ICC reported on the commissioning of the “replica” church in Syria two years ago, as the commissioning situated the Hagia Sophia church in Al-Suqaylabiyah squarely amid ongoing contests between Turkey, Syria, and Russia. 

While the exact perpetrators of the church attack are not known, it is believed to be members affiliated with Turkish-backed non-state actors. Within the region, Christians are constantly thrust between the geopolitics of competing countries, a situation that further contributes to the decreasing number of local Christians. 

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Since 1995, ICC has served the global persecuted church through a three-pronged approach of advocacy, awareness, and assistance. ICC exists to bandage the wounds of persecuted Christians and to build the church in the toughest parts of the world.