The Middle East has become one the most dangerous regions in the world for Christians. There were more than 15 million Christians in the Arab world before popular uprisings provoked the new wave of discrimination. Syria is no exception. It has a substantial Sunni Muslim majority and large minority communities—Christians, Alawites, and others—who together make up over a quarter of the population. As the MENA region plunges into turmoil it is almost impossible to provide valid statistics. However, historical precedents are sinister to say the least. In 2003 Iraq’s Christian population was at least one million. Today fewer than 400,000 remain—the result of an anti-Christian campaign that began with the U.S. occupation.
Beyond all doubt is the fact that Christian communities in Syria are deliberately targeted by the jihadists. Pope Francis has called for a negotiated settlement to the Syrian conflict while condemning use of chemical weapons. “War never again! Never again war!” he tweeted earlier this week. Earlier this year Patriarch Kirill of Russia also urged the global community to oppose persecutions of Christians in Syria: “As the militants came, happens something unthinkable: churches are being destroyed, priesthood kidnapped, violent expulsion of Christians from their homes is taking place, and Christians are being killed”. Naturally these statements went unnoticed by the Western media.
Terrorist groups trained and sponsored by the US declared zero tolerance policy towards all religious minorities. Their famous motto “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the grave” is nothing but a cover for a full-blown genocide in the small secular republic. Sectarian strife and ethnic cleansings in Syria are used by Obama administration to get a foothold in the mineral-rich region.
The town of Rableh was surrounded by rebels for a few weeks. Islamists killed everyone trying to leave the area including the employees of charity organizations. Foreign mercenaries paid by Qatar and Saudi Arabia commit atrocities, bring down crosses and bury them underground. Christian communities pack their possessions and flee their homes to avoid forced conversions.
“The only unprotected group are the Christians. The <Sunni> Arabs had arms coming from Saudi and Qatar, the Kurds had help from Kurdistan. We had no weapons at all.” told The Telegraph a Christian man Joseph from a small town of Hasakah, Syria.
Maaloula – a mountain village of 2,000 residents 60km northeast of Damascus – is home to some of the most ancient Orthodox Christian relics and is a major pilgrimage destination. People there still speak Aramaic, a biblical-era language Jesus is believed to have spoken. On September 5 an Al-Qaeda-linked group Jabhat al-Nusra member blew himself up at a government checkpoint near the entrance to the village. Destruction of cultural heritage sites is a well-known hallmark of Salafist jihadism. The rebels have also bombed an ancient Orthodox monastery of Elijah the Prophet near the Syrian town of Al-Qusayr.
Several month ago a group of extremists kidnapped the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Aleppo, Youhanna Ibrahim, and the Greek Orthodox metropolitan of Aleppo and Iskenderun, Boulos al-Yaziji, on the road to Aleppo. Their driver, a Syrian Orthodox deacon, was shot to death. This crime was undoubtedly motivated by Al-Qaeda ideology. Defenseless monasteries, communities and refugee camps fall victim to terrorists.
The so called “Free Syrian Army” which is sold to the Western audience as moderate rebels demolished the Sts. Sergius and Bacchus church, refugees said. “They tore up the sanctuary curtains, Bibles and other holy books, and broke all the crosses, chairs and icons of Jesus and the saints. They stole electrical appliances like fans, chandeliers and lights.”
Repeated requests of local religious authorities to the West remain unanswered. “I would like everyone to know that the West, in supporting the revolutionaries, is supporting religious extremists and helping to kill Christians,” announced Fr. Halim Noujaim, the Franciscans’ regional minister for Syria and Lebanon.
For the first time in years all Christian confessions are making common push for a peaceful solution in Syria. Pope Francis’ inititive to held a four hour vigil in St Peter’s Square on Saturday evening will be supported by all religios leaders of the world concerned by the fatal course of militaristic Juggernaut on Syria.