In a country with deep Christian roots, Muslim rule, and civil war, Christians are increasingly becoming collateral damage. The Assad regime looks to protect Christians in an effort to legitimize itself to the world, using them as political tools. The extremists within the protestors are using the chaos to target, injure, and kill Christians. But whether they are political tools or ideological targets, their fate lies in being collateral damage.
Already, many Christians have fled Syria. Many have sought asylum in the United States. They worry everyday about those they have left behind and wonder where their futures lie. How is it that a country, with such deep Christian roots, can no longer support having Christians? For hundreds of years, various faiths have lived peacefully, side-by-side, in Syria. Now Christians must leave or face possible death.
The civil war started with peaceful protests. It has turned into a violent civil war with many outsiders taking advantage and co-opting the protesters. To this day, there are still people missing that are believed to have been kidnapped by rebel forces, most presumably terrorists. Two bishops and a Jesuit are among these missing. What started peacefully has become sectarian and violent.
Christian towns are being taken over and vandalized. Christians are forced to leave or face brutal consequences. The crosses are taken off their churches with promises to make the church a mosque. Anyone confronting these terrorists are likely to face beheading.
Just as the original protest movement was co-opted by terrorists groups, specifically affiliates of al Qaeda, Christians are also being co-opted by them. The are watching their towns, places of worship, and family members fall under the hand of these men. Because of the violence and chaos of the civil war, terrorists have been able to come in and wage their own war. So Christians look to the Assad regime for protection.
Although President Assad is vowing to protect Christians, making his promises on Easter Sunday in a Christian town his troops helped recapture, he cannot be fully trusted. In the midst of accusations of chemical weapon use on the citizenry, it is hard to know how true his commitment is to the Christian community. After all, the country is rated 3rd in the world for Christian persecution. Which evil is better? Many can’t choose, they simply leave.
So as we watch Syria fall apart in the midst of its civil war, what will become of the 10% of Syria’s population that is Christian? Will the displaced return? Will they have anything to return to? Will their heritage survive? Time will tell.