08/02/2022 Syria (International Christian Concern) – In recent weeks, Russian forces have executed airstrikes in multiple Christian-majority villages in the Idlib province of northwestern Syria. Tragically, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the July 22 strikes killed seven civilians, four of whom were children, and injured another 13. The four children killed in the blasts were siblings. Their hospitalized father, completely heartbroken, told AFP, “My children are gone […] the dearest people to my heart are gone.”
Overall, Russia has been carrying out airstrikes such as these since 2015, supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in its effort to reassert control over lost Syrian territory. Estimates hold that these Russian airstrikes are responsible for at least 1,400 civilian deaths over the last seven years.
These latest civilian casualties in Syria once again place Christians in the path of ongoing warfare in the country. Many geopolitical actors—the Syrian government, Russia, Turkey, the Kurds, and other opposition and extremist groups—all compete for control of Syrian territory, and far too often, their political violence results in civilian collateral damage.
Another example of Christians caught in the crossfire of ongoing political violence took place just last week when Turkey allegedly killed two Christians and injured 12 in a rocket attack on a controversial Church in Syria near the city of Hama. Unfortunately, as this attack and the Russian airstrikes carried out recently demonstrate, as long as this violent conflict continues in Syria, the Christians who remain in the area will be at risk.
This risk to Christians may not just persist; it may, in fact, worsen significantly in the near future. If Turkey, as it has been threatening, chooses to escalate its involvement in Syria by executing a large-scale invasion of northern Syria, the risk of violence to Christians will grow exponentially. Nadine Maenza, former chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, explained the potentially catastrophic impact of such an invasion when she told the Jerusalem Post, “If this area falls [to Turkey], there won’t be any Christians or Yazidis left.”
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