Assyrian Christians in Syria have called for a ceasefire, amidst fears of an escalating conflict between Turkey and Kurdish groups. While both Christians and Kurds in Syria and Iraq face the existential threat from Islamic State (ISIL), Turkey’s long simmering conflict with its own Kurdish population has boiled over, with air-strikes against Kurdish targets in northern Iraq and cross border shelling into Syria and Iraq.
A self-protection militia of Assyrian Christians, the Syriac Military Council (SMC), has joined a long list of critics of Turkey’s escalating military actions. The SMC is allied to the Kurdish People’s Protection units and some factions of the Syria Free Army in Hassake, Syria, where ISIL fighters have pushed against them in recent months. There are large numbers of Christians under threat in the Hassake region.
The military developments risk Turkey killing large numbers of Christians, and a letter from the SMC calling for a ceasefire makes explicit reference to how Christians have historically suffered at the hands of the Turks, and their fears of a new genocide.
Turkey is a member of NATO, and on Tuesday 28th July they received a pledge of support from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
As NATO throws its weight behind Turkish military action, it risks betraying both Kurds and Christians, as they face the murderous assaults of ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
The call from the SMC is a sharp reminder to NATO and Turkey that the struggle against ISIL is not an excuse for Turkey to pursue its geopolitical fight with the Kurds, neither does it give them the right to attack other minorities in the region as it tries to prevent any autonomous areas developing in Syria and to restrict the Kurdish provinces in northern Iraq.
- Pray for the Assyrian Christians and Kurds, as they cope with the new onslaught of attacks from both ISIL and Turkey. Pray that they will know the protection and peace of God surrounding them day and night.
- Pray for wisdom for NATO, and for Turkey to see that their fight is not against the Kurds and Christians, and to find ways to protect them and work with them in the fight against ISIL.
- Pray for Turkey to show restraint and not use this as an excuse to destroy the Kurdish communities.
- Pray for peace across Syria and Iraq.
Psalm 20 vs 1: “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.”