Washington Times on August 1, 2013, reported that the Arab Spring has not been kind to Christians, and Syria is a good example: The nation’s 2 million-plus Christians are caught in the middle of a Muslim war. Excerpts below:
Jihadist rebels threaten and kidnap them while coercing others to become Muslims. Government troops loyal to President Bashar Assad order them to fight the opposition or face death.
A Christian bishop this year fled…to escape Syria’s secret police. He suspected they planned to kill him for not cooperating. In June, al Qaeda sympathizers beheaded a Catholic priest and proudly posted online cellphone videos of the bloody scene.
Mr. Assad belongs to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, and rules over Syria’s majority Sunnis. Christians account for about 10 percent of Syria’s 22 million people.
“The Christians in Syria are helpless,” said David Eaton,… “Muslim families are supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Muslim countries. Many Christians are, therefore, forced to convert to Islam in order to survive.”
Two months ago, a Syrian Orthodox and a Greek Orthodox bishop were kidnapped. The Institute for Peace in the Orient is trying to raise money to pay any ransom.
The group’s goal is democracy and freedom of religion for Syria.
“The main objective of this institute is to bring peace to all people of Syria,” Christian Bishop Aydin said. “There are so many different jihadist groups penetrating villages and towns it is hard sometimes to pinpoint which group is responsible for kidnapping, killing. In general, we always hear jihadists want to impose Shariah [Islamic law] in the county. They are not thinking about spreading democracy.”
According to the group Support Syrian Christians, the Arab Spring has not been kind to believers in Jesus Christ. Autocratic regimes, such as Mr. Assad‘s, that have provided some protection have given way to Islamic rulers, or rebels, who allow persecution of Christians.
“Arab Spring revolutions that have toppled governments have not lent an encouraging precedent to the Christians of Syria,” the group said in a report about current conditions.
“Church burnings and a series of anti-Coptic Christian riots have accompanied the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Two-thirds of Iraqi Christians have fled the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein, and now in Syria there are reports of Christian communities being terrorized as they are caught in a civil war between the regime and the Free Syria Army.”
The trends for Christians in the Middle East are not promising. They made up 20 percent of the population a century ago, but about 5 percent today.
Like Iraq, Syria will lose its religious diversity under Islamic leadership unless Western governments take more active stances to protect Christians, the report says.
Besides Syrian Orthodox, with headquarters in Damascus, 10 other Christian denominations were active in the country.