A report recently published by the Open Doors international Christian human rights organisation says that, at present, Syria’s one of the most dangerous countries in the world for Christians to live in. The report says that many Christians in Syria are victims of violence and that many Christian churches and monasteries in the country lie in ruins. Every year, Open Doors publishes reports about violence against Christians in various parts of the world. In last year’s report, Syria was in 36th place on the list of countries where Christians face persecution. Now, it’s in 11th place. Open Doors collected information about Christians killed, kidnapped, or brutalised in those regions of Syria under opposition control, which, in essence, means Islamist rule. The Islamist insurgents have desecrated, damaged, or totally wrecked many Christian churches and monasteries in Syria.
In an interview with VOR, Russian expert in Eastern affairs Boris Dolgov said, “The appearance of this report is very important. I hope that this document helps the world to learn more about violence against Christians in Syria and to seek measures to stop this violence”. Recently, Mr Dolgov visited Syria and met with members of several Christian communities; in particular, with Mother Agnes-Mariam de la Croix, the prioress of St Jacques Roman Catholic Monastery, saying, “I had a long talk with Mother Agnes-Mariam. She’s very concerned that the rebels are now persecuting Christians in Syria. She knows of many cases when Islamists shelled Christian monasteries, kidnapped or killed Christian priests, and expelled Christians from cities now under opposition control… for example, from Homs. She showed photographs to me that depicted the consequences of these crimes. Mother Agnes-Mariam told me that many members of the Syrian opposition belong to al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups”.
The Open Doors report noted that if radical Islamists come to power in Syria, they might start to persecute Christians only because Christians didn’t interfere in the conflict between the opposition and the government out of a preference for a peaceful solution of the matter. This may either isolate Syrian Christians domestically or force many to flee Syria. Dolgov agreed with this, saying, “If the most radical Islamist faction within the Syrian opposition came to power, this would be a tragedy, not only for Syria, but also for the entire Middle East. Most likely, they’d start killing Christians, Alawites, Kurds, and members of other religious and national minorities”.
Alawites are a Muslim sect whose beliefs on some points differ from those of the Islamists. President Bashar al-Assad and his family are Alawites, and Alawites currently dominate the Syrian government and military. As a rule, Syrian Kurds either support President Assad or take no sides in the conflict between his régime and the opposition. Recently, the MP also expressed concern about persecution of Christians in Syria. Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev, the First Hierarch of the MP, is of the opinion that ethnic and religious tensions are the main causes of the conflict in Syria. His Holiness said that the MP is ready to render humanitarian aid to Syrian Christians who’ve lost their homes or suffered in some other way from Islamist actions.
10 January 2013
Voice of Russia World Service