Syrian Christians are Victims of Terrorist Attacks in rebel-held Areas
Damascus Christians are living with the fear that the city in which they and their ancestors have lived since the time of the apostles will become the scene of a new religious extermination.
It is a stronghold of followers of Jesus Christ in a country with a Muslim majority, There Christians have been able to freely practice their faith under Assad, but now they are in danger of being persecuted by terrorist extremists.
In the uprising against the government Christians experienced car bombs in their neighborhoods; attacks in Ma’lula Christian cities and the kidnapping and murder of religious leaders. Above all, they say, they have spotted in the distance an increasingly radical and extremist opposition which seeks to impose Islam by force while shouting ‘Allah is great’ .
Each day, Father Gabriel Daoud, 36, leads religious services in the Syrian Orthodox Church of St. George, in the Christian Quarter of the Old City. On the front, a large sign asks prayer for Boulos Yazigi and Yuhanna Ibrahim, Orthodox bishops kidnapped by rebels in April in Aleppo, during an incident that also killed a priest. Father Gabriel has received numerous threats, but does not hide or get frightened.
“Christians in Syria do not support the president, but a system. Of course that system is not free of errors. The government has made ??many . No one will defend him, but everyone will defend this country,” he says, opening the doors of his temple. He question which type of Islam is practiced by the rebels who have kidnapped religious leaders: “I believe in God, believe in death. They believe that being martyrs is necessary to go to paradise. They have nothing to lose. They come to kill. “
Damascus is one of the founding cities of Christianity. It is cited 64 times in the Bible. It is mentioned in the book Acts of the Apostles. It is written by the evangelist Luke, Saul of Tarsus, who had devoted his life to persecute the early followers of Jesus. He told about how on the way to this city he saw a “bright as the sun” voice saying, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. “Saul became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, who dedicated his life to convert people to the new faith.
Reflecting the importance of this country to Christianity, one of the last Western embassies to remain open is that of the Vatican. Mario Zenari, who assists the Christian community in the country estimates that some 35 bishops, 17 of them Catholic, as well as several communities of monks and nuns who resist are within areas controlled by the opposition. He says to have no news about Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Jesuit who supported the rebels and disappeared in the rebel stronghold of Raqqa in July.
“Christians have lived here successfully”.
“If you wanted to build a church you were able to do it, and even receive government money,” said Zenari, clarifying that with “religious freedom come human rights issues and fundamental freedoms”. He adds that many Christians have become internal and external refugees, especially in Europe, but very few are in refugee camps “due to the cultural distance ” with Muslims.
In recent weeks, the rebels, including Al-Nusra, a group affiliated with al Qaeda, encircled and attacked the Christian city of Ma’lula where Aramaic, the language from the time of Jesus Christ, is still spoken. They say Christians who fled, many to Damascus, left because Muslim jihadists invaded their homes. They feared that what they had seen in Egypt in recent months, looted and burned Christian churches by Islamists would be repeated in Syria.
“Christians here face extermination,” says Salam Majd, a carpenter of 52 years of age, on the streets of the Christian Quarter of the Old City, where in June a car bomb caused four deaths. “Here we had freedom of worship and peace. And now the radical fundamentalists paid by countries like Saudi Arabia and the United States come to destroy us.”
Until a few years the Christians of Syria were estimated between to be between 6 and 10% of a population of 23 million. They lived in peace in this country in recent decades protected by the regime of the Assad family, who presided over an amalgam of religious groups not treated with special favoritism. But today, the intervention of foreigners financed by western imperialist powers have turned their lives into a living hell.