Syria has recently been named as the third worst country for Christian persecution, according to Open Doors, a watchdog organization. Over a two-year period, Syria went from 36th to 3rd. Many attribute this rise in persecution to the civil war break out. Prior to the civil war in Syria, Christians were mainly persecuted out of paranoia from those in power. Persecution was very limited and most people enjoyed the freedom to practice their religion. This was so much the case that Iraqi Christians fled their home country to go to Syria. Since the outbreak of civil war, Christians are now being targeted by Islamic extremists. The rise of extremist groups, such as al Qaeda, within Syria is in direct correlation to the rise in Christian persecution.
Out of 21.8 million people, 1.3 million are Christians. According to Open Doors, the 1.3 million is a decrease from the 1.7 million in 2013. Christians are leaving Syria in droves due to the sectarian violence. In October 2013, the city of Sadad was overtaken. 45 Christians were murdered and thrown into mass graves. This was the largest massacre of Christians in Syria and the second largest in the Middle East. The Christian Science Monitor reports that in the northern region of Syria, in a city named Raqqa, Christians are forced to convert, pay a tax for being non-Muslim, or die. Other areas, controlled by off shoots of al Qaeda, refuse to allow war-damaged churches to be rebuilt or remodeled, restrict Christians from wearing religious emblems, and charge taxes.
According to Christian Freedom International, Christians dare not go out of their houses after 3pm and on Fridays do not venture out at all. It is too dangerous. Many are leaving. Because of the intense violence against them, many cannot make it to work. The lack of income, along with a lack of essentials such as gas and electricity, and the risk to life and limb, has made it nearly impossible to continue living in their country. Christian refugees from Iraq are again being displaced due to persecution.
Statements from those that have fled speak to murder, kidnappings, rape, threats, vandalism, and more. Voice of the Martyrs reports that some pastors are even brought to the police station for “meetings” where they are interrogated about their church, its members, and any Islamic converts.
Syria is indeed in a civil war, and it is about more than politics. What started as a dispute regarding government has turned into an excuse for religious persecution.
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