Christian Flight from Syria

Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal published an article entitled “Syrian Conflict Draws in Christians” which draws attention to the unique challenges Christians face within the ongoing conflict in Syria. One often unnoticed or under-reported challenge of the of the last few years is that, due to their precarious situation of during the Arab Spring, many Christians are fleeing their countries to more stable and sympathetic places. This has been best reported in Iraq, but we have heard of it throughout North Africa and the Middle East, and now it reaches to Syria.

One part of The Wall Street Journal which some may not be able to access reads as follows:

Christians account for nearly 10% of the population…A recent wave of kidnappings, intimidation and revenge killings in the town of Qusayr, in an areas of Syria where religious groups have lived side by side for centuries, provides a cautionary example of what may lie ahead for other heavily Christian areas, particularly in urban centers.

About a year ago, I sat with a group of Christians from Syria during a gathering of Christian leaders in the Middle East. As we talked about the tensions in Syria at that time, a sharp disagreement arose about how Christians should view the current Assad regime or those who would like to supplant that regime. Some said they were thankful for the protection currently provided to them by the government while others expressed dissatisfaction at the injustices. Overall, there was great anxiety about who would take the place in government if Assad were displaced. It’s not too different from what has been reported by some journalists recently:

‘Look at what happened in Egypt and Iraq,’ a Syrian church leader, who asked to remain anonymous told International Christian Concern. ‘Christians want to peacefully go out and ask for certain changes, but Islamist groups are sneaking in with their goal, which is not to make changes for the betterment of Syria, but to take over the country with their agenda. Christians will be the first to pay if this happens.’

With these realities unfolding, we must not forget our brothers and sisters around the world.

Undoubtedly, we must stand with them in prayer. Two ways we can do that are by praying on our own or with others through Operation World or during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.In Iraq over the last few years, Christians have fled the country because they are not protected. This has carried on in many other places throughout the region. While journalists talk broadly about the Arab Spring, most believers in the region now refer to it as a “Christian Winter.” Perhaps it is part of a more widespread change of attitude and violence against Christianity in places as diverse as Syria, Nigeria, and Iraq (see my post: “Global Violence Against Christians on the Rise?“).

Alongside of prayer, however, we must also be a voice for the voiceless in these seasons of violence and change. In view of our faith and because of global demands for justice, we must also say we will not tolerate violence against Christians. Read more on this topic at my post, “Who Will Defend Mideast Christians?“, or by dipping into a more global view with the article, “Five Myths about Anti-Christian Persecution.”

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