What a beautiful land you will be for our enemies...
(Part of The Darkness Visible post)
When we think of Syria we do not usually take time to think about the roots of Christianity. Yet it was in Damascus that Saul became Paul. It was here in Syria that the world of Christianity ceased to focus on converted Jews and shifted to the rest of humanity. And in spite of all this the history of Christianity in Syria seems forgotten at best.
Just a century ago a fifth of Syria's population were Christian. Today only about five percent of Syria's population is Christian. And it is this tiny community that is falling into the darkest chapters of Syria's rebellion. Soon the history of Syria's Christians could be more than just forgotten.
Assad has been a cruel dictator. His ruthlessness has made him a villain in the eyes of the civilized world. His tactics have made him a war criminal. And his supporters are just as extreme as their opposition. Yet it is both the brutal regime and the rebels alike that are putting the squeeze on Syria's Christian community.
“The armed [rebels] in Syria [have] murdered more than 200
Christians in the city of Homs, including entire families with young
children. These gangs kidnapped Christians and demanded high ransoms. In
two cases, after the ransoms were paid, the men's bodies were found,” according to a priest in Homs.
It is clear to many outside of Syria that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is not as pure as some would make them out to be. There are extremist within the rebel movement that are attempting to spread the violence beyond politics and into the realm of genocide. And there are those in the FSA that have perverted the ideals of freedom with their radicalized versions of Islam itself.
As for Assad and his Alawite following, the killing of Christians and the destruction of Christian holly sites has been accepted since the beginning of the the uprising. Assad's loyalist have long been skeptical of the Christians and have often accused the Church of supporting "terrorism". These accusations have long been tucked beneath the socially acceptable charge of "Zionism" due to the belief that all Christians are sympathetic to Judaism and Israel.
For the Christians in Syria the lack of understanding and tolerance within the Muslim communities has simply reached its boiling point. The extremist on both sides of Syria's conflict are now armed with the tools to bring about their wicked goals. Unarmed communities like the Syrian Christians thus find themselves surrounded by snakes with no way to defend themselves. And that is where we find Syria's Church today.
Persecution for their beliefs has long been part of being a Christian in Syria. However in the past 17 months life has become almost unbearable as the fighting becomes more and more sectarian in nature. Entire families have been killed in many attacks while in some attacks entire congregations have been targeted. These brazen attempts at "cleansing" Syria of its Christian past point to a genocide the world dares to overlook. They also leave many asking if Christianity can survive within Syria?
Some within the Syrian Christian community have supported Assad in hopes of keeping the tyrant they currently have for not knowing what kind of monster might replace him. Others are supporting the rebellion in the belief, if hopeful at best, that democracy might actually be snagged from this brutal uprising. All are waiting to see if they will be able to weather this storm.
So as I have ended these post for weeks now I invite you to pray for Syria. Today I ask that you might pray for the Syrian Christians as they face one of the darkest chapters in their long and colorful past in Syria. May G-d show them mercy and guide them through this dark night. May their faith only be strengthened during this storm. And may we never forget their suffering... their contributions to Syrian culture... their dedication to their G-d even in the darkest hours.