Christian minority fleeing war-torn Syria

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12-11-2013

 

ARA News

Qamishli, Syria− Since the start of the popular anti-Assad uprising, March 15, 2011, Christian activists participated in the peaceful demonstrations, raising pro-democracy banners along with other components of the Syrian society. Although the Christian participation was unremarkable in comparison with their Syrian peers, their limited activity was considered by many as an addition to the popular movement.    

However, the majority of the Christian religious figures in Syria continuously supported the Assad regime as a “secular regime” which provides an alleged protection to the minorities including Syria’s Christian component.

According to the Christian clergymen, a pro-Assad position is meant to prevent their component’s involvement in the 32-month war in the country. 

The militarization of the Syrian anti-regime revolution “justified” the position of the majority of Syrian Christians, according to activists who emphasized the minorities’ opposition to the violent aspects that most likely threatens their existence. 

The growing power of the Islamist forces in several areas in Syria raised the fears of the Christian population. The al-Qaeda affiliated groups of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS) have repeatedly targeted areas with a Christian majority, causing a mass displacement of the civilians who resorted to neighbouring countries looking for a safe haven. 

Recently, the main churches in the cities of Raqqa and Tel Abyad, north of Syria, were attacked by Islamist fighters. Sources told ARA News that insulting anti-Christian actions were carried out by al-Qaeda linked groups, such as burning the holy Bible in front of the main Church in Raqqa city, Oct. 28. 

Although the northern areas in Syria are considered relatively safe in comparison to other war-torn region, a considerable migration of Christian residents was witnessed recently. Hundreds of them left their areas after growing fear of a potential domination by the Islamist forces. 

In areas where the Kurds form a majority of the population, Christians, including Assyrians, Armenians, Chaldeans and Syriacs, used to enjoy a secure and secular environment. However, as violent clashes between the Kurdish forces of the YPG and the al-Qaeda affiliated groups erupted in the region, the Christians were one of the area’s first components to escape a possible persecution, especially with the prevalent agenda of the Islamists to spread the Islamic law (Shariaa) as a basis for the citizens’ practices in their daily life. Armenians,

Thousands of Syrian Kurds have also escaped the country, but the reasons for the Christian minority to flee their houses remain different, according to observers. 

“The Christians’ emigration is an old issue related to the historical heritage in our region, where in the seventies of the last century, a lot of the Syrian Christians immigrated to Lebanon, and in the eighties they started fleeing away to Europe”, said Farid Karah Bet, a Christian resident of Qamishlo/al-Qamishli, north-east of Syria.

Karah Bet told ARA News that both the Syrian regime and opposition are responsible for the current displacement of the Christian minority from Syria. 

“Both parties are to blame,” he said. “Of course we cannot deny the deteriorating economic situation in the area and the corruption across the country to be a part of the reason behind the Christians’ emigration, but the security vacuum was the main reason, and neither the regime nor the opposition could seriously guarantee our families and churches safety.”

According to Karah Bet, the recent practices of the “radical Islamic groups” against Christians and their sanctities reminded him of the history of persecution his peers were exposed to in the region. 

Gabriel Mushe, member of the Assyrian Democratic Organization in Syria, told ARA News that the responsible party for the emigrations of the Christian families from Syria is the rulling Baath Party “which implemented suppressive policies against the Christian population since Hafiz al-Assad came to power in 1971. legitimate

“Christians were since then deprived of their legitimate right to participate in any political activities to remain silent and play no significant role in the decision-making process in Syria,” Mushe argued. 

However, other Christians in Qamishlo insisted that “Isreal and the Zionist lobby are responsible for the immigration of Syrian Christians”. They supported their argument by saying: “Israel constantly tried to push Christians out of Syria to weaken the Syrian multi-religious identity and reinforce hatred among Syrians, to give itself thus the pretext to continue its occupation over Israel.” 

Christians form approximately 12% of the population in Syria. 

Activists emphasize that “the brutality of the pro-Assad forces led, not only Christians, but also millions of other Syrians to leave their houses and resort to the unknown.” 

 

Report by: Salim suleiman

Source: ARA News

(Editing by: Adib Abdulmajid)

 

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