What is the future for Christians in Syria?
Since the beginning of the civil war, Syrian church officials have been warning of a dark fate awaiting the country’s Christians, a fate similar to that of Iraq’s Christians. On June 16, 2011, the bishops of Damascus called on Syrian Christians to avoid getting dragged into the “battle of the axes” and to not bet on foreign entities. A few months later, in September 2011, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris and warned him that Syria’s Christians were in danger. Afterward, almost all Christian religious officials, from every denomination, started speaking out on the issue.
On Dec. 29, 2012, Rev. Abraham Nusseir, head of the Evangelical Church in Aleppo, criticized what he described as French positions that “encourage the emigration of the Christians from Syria.” According to him, “A French official said that the number of Christians in the region is not large and that European countries are able to accommodate them. Then Germany declared its willingness to receive 20,000 Christian families. But those statements were not made out of concern or love for us but to implement a plan aimed at emptying the region of its Christians.”
Melkite Greek-Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham appealed to the world on April 12, 2013, when he stated, “There are between one and a half million and two million Christians of various denominations in Syria. With the exception of Egypt, there are more Christians in Syria than in any other Arab country, including Lebanon. The future of the Christians in Syria is threatened, not by the Muslims, but by the current crisis, the chaos, and the arrival of rival fanatical fundamentalist militant Islamic groups, which are attacking the Christians. There have been thousands of victims among civilians, priests, men, women, and children. Hundreds of thousands have been internally displaced or left for Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey or elsewhere. Between 250,000 to 400,000 people have left for the West, especially to Sweden, Canada, and the United States. The Christians are leaving their towns, villages, and neighborhoods. Whole villages, such as the town of Darya, have been emptied of Christians.”
It seems that the Christians of Syria now stand at the center of a tragedy, risking extermination or displacement. Until now the world has been satisfied with merely monitoring. A nun who is responsible for a Syrian monastery said to her fellow nuns in an Easter letter on March 23, “Every night, pray the rosary for the sake of our enemies, because they know not what they do!”
Join with Christians in and from Syria in praying for this nation and God’s people as they struggle with the realities of brokenness and pain.