Syria Christians targeted for supporting Assad

File photo shows Takfiri militants in Syria.

File photo shows Takfiri militants in Syria.

by Tahmineh Bakhtiari

While Syria has turned into the scene of deep and spiteful aggression by the United States and its allies, Christians in this country are facing very difficult conditions.

The Christian-populated city of Sadad, located north of Damascus, has been under siege by militants for several days. The city of Ma’loula, which is considered the cradle of Christianity in Syria, has also been traded between the Syrian army and the militants from time to time.

There are also many Christians among the abducted civilians in Syria and even in April, two bishops were kidnapped in northern Syria in the areas controlled by armed opposition forces fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Bishops Paul Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim were abducted by Takfiri militants while they were travelling to Aleppo from the Turkish border Zones.

In September, Bishop Ibrahim told Reuters that hundreds of Christian families residing in Aleppo had fled the city due to the clashes between government troops and armed opposition forces.

He said, “In its modern history, Aleppo has not seen such critical and painful times,” adding, “Christians have been attacked and kidnapped in monstrous ways and their relatives have paid big sums for their release.”

In Ma’loula, there are significant Christian worship centers and historical sites, which date back to the 10th century BC. The Christian and Muslim residents of the city speak Aramaic (Syriac), the language spoken by Jesus Christ, along with Arabic, and Ma’loula is the only region in Syria with a mainly Christian population.

According to figures, Christians make up around 8 percent of the Syrian population. All Christians in Syria do not belong to a single sect. Syrian Christians have different sects including the Roman Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Latin and Protestant, Maronite, Chaldean, Assyrian, Catholic Syriac and Armenian Christians.

In Aleppo alone, there are 10 centers under church supervision while the Syrian capital, Damascus, is also the central headquarters for some Christian sects and is home to three global churches.

Although the Christians in Syria politically support the government, some famous figures such as writer and thinker Michel kilo, are not on the government’s side and has spent many years behind bars during the rule of the Assad family. However, they never supported a militarized approach to reach political reforms.

The Christians had concluded that despite living in an Islamic and Arab country, they never face any limitations in performing their religious rituals and social conduct, an issue which was albeit criticized by some Salafi groups in Syria who had asked President Assad before the outbreak of unrest to impose limitations on the Christians so that they are forced to leave the country.

When the Christians escaped the civil war in Iraq during the US-led invasion of the country, they decided to settle in Damascus because the Christians in Syria were living in peace.

Since half a century ago until the outbreak of unrest in Syria, sectarian conflict was not visible in the country and all religious and ethnic groups were living together in peace. Even a civil war was ignited in neighboring Lebanon due to sectarian differences while such conflicts were never witnessed in the history of Syria.

At the beginning of the turmoil, Christians in Syria backed the opposition but they gradually joined Assad supporters as the true nature of the armed opposition came to light.

A bishop in the Orthodox Church voiced full support for Assad and said, “Yes, we agreed to an uprising against Assad at the beginning, but we wanted a peaceful protest. However, things suddenly changed and danger knocked on our doors; therefore, we should stand by the government, particularly President Assad, in order to prevent Takfiris from gaining control over this country.”

In fact, attacking the Ma’loula village was a strategic mistake on the part of foreign-sponsored armed terrorist groups, which exposed their true nature. In reality, assaulting a Christian-populated village proved two fundamental points; On the one hand, the attack on Ma’loula proved to both the Syrian nation and the regional countries that these assailants are not Syrians as the residents of this village had been living in peace with Muslims for over 10 centuries and they were not even once harassed by Muslims.

On the other hand, it became clear that if these terrorist groups ascend to power in Syria, they will target everyone but the Wahhabis and they will finally set the stage for the occupation of this country by the Israeli regime and the United States.

Such conditions have prompted some Christians to take up arms and fight against the Takfiris along with the Syrian army. Most of the Christian volunteer soldiers are battling in ranks known as “National Defense Committees”, which were created by the Syrian army. One of these units, dubbed “Lions of the Valley,” is predominantly Christian and is led by a Christian commander. This group is operating in Wadi al-Nasara or Valley of the Christians near Homs.

It is not only the Christians that are targeted by Takfiri groups but other ethnic and religious minorities in Syria, which are mainly the supporters of President Assad, are also assaulted by militants.

According to principles of the al-Qaeda, which is the follower of Wahhabism, all Muslims, except Salafis, have exited the religion of Islam and the Christians are also infidel and should be eliminated.

This is while Western states, which always claim to fight terrorism, violence and extremism and are mostly Christians themselves, have forgotten that they have dispatched their weapons to militants in Syria and the terrorists open fire on their fellow Christians with these very weapons.

According to reports, Christian communities in Syria have called on Western countries not to leave them alone by adopting illogical policies and standing by al-Qaeda-affiliated foreign militant groups. They have also urged the Western governments to order Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which fund al-Qaeda militants, to withdraw from the battle in Syria.

It could be said in general that the Westerners, particularly the United States, which held al-Qaeda responsible for the terrorist incidents on September 11, 2001, and formed an alliance to invade Iraq under this pretext, are now supporting al-Qaeda which will target Christians if it comes to power in Syria.

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