Amid the ongoing Syrian civil war, Syria’s Christian community has come under growing threat as foreign jihadists and Muslim radicals increasingly play a role in the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian Christians, who comprise 10 percent of the population, have been put into a difficult situation by the conflict. On one hand, many support the rebellion against the ruthless Assad. At the same time, however, under Assad they were a protected minority. Many Christians fear that if Assad is overthrown and replaced by Islamists, they will face greater persecution. Signs of that are already beginning to appear.
“They wanted to kill us because we were Christians. They were calling us Kaffirs [infidels], even little children saying these things. Those who were our neighbours turned against us,” said one Syrian Christian to the UK’s Independent.
Syrian Christian religious leaders blame recent influx of Islamic radicals. Responsibility for the attacks lay with “an influx of jihadists in the rebels in the last six, seven months,” Archbishop Issam John Darwish said.
Another prominent and widely respected Arab Christian leader, Mother Agner-Mariam, claims that many of the jihadists are affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood and are veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq. And now, “their cause is being recycled to kill Syrians,” she said.
As Syrian Christians face further attacks and persecution, many in the largely Christian West are doing little to come to their support. Archbishop Darwish believes this is because the West has a fundamental misunderstanding of the threat of Islamic radicals.
“I have raised this with officials in the West, they must bring peace. The jihadis will not stop here, the war will spread to Europe. What will England be like in ten or 15 years?”