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Christians in Syria Fear ‘Ethnic Cleansing’

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syrian christians church bannerAs the civil war in Syrian continues to escalate, Christians are increasingly becoming the target of violent attacks. Catholic and Orthodox groups in Syria say the anti-government rebels have committed “awful acts” against Christians, including beheadings, rapes and murders of pregnant women.

Today, the conflict has morphed into a full-fledged civil war in which more than 100,000 people have perished. The most capable units on the rebel side — those spearheading the fight against the secular government — are composed of Islamist militants, many of whom fought U.S. forces in Iraq. The militants now accuse Christians of being supporters of Assad’s regime.

“They have threatened to cut our throats,” said Bahri, a Roman Catholic. “I love my country, but if it means having the terrorists slaughter me, my wife and our two boys, I’d rather escape to Lebanon.”

These ancient Christian communities, some of the oldest in the world, have generally been protected by successive Syrian governments, including Assad’s. But that security was lost when rebel factions began mounting increasingly ferocious attacks on them throughout the country.

On Aug. 17, rebel gunmen shot dead 11 Christians and wounded three more in central Syria, eyewitnesses and human rights activists said. In April, two bishops were abducted in rebel-held areas and an Italian Jesuit priest, Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, went missing last month while on a trip to the rebel-held northeastern city of Raqqa.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Curt Day

    One realizes as one reads the article linked to, that the crux of the problem for Christians facing violence is the relationship with the government. The article was clear that though Christians supported reforms when there wasn’t the violence, they are perceived as being pro-government and remember that perception is everything. There is a lesson to be learned here.

    Likewise is the legitimate Christian angst over possible attempts at ethnic cleansing. These are very legitimate worries.

    But there is the other hand here. Was there a Christian concern over the ethnic cleansing that is occurring in israel/Palestine? Here, we might do well to remember a saying by Thucydides:

    When will there be justice in Athens? There will be justice in Athens when those who are not injured are as outraged as those who are.

    Finally, we also need to think about something Chris Hedges said in his lecture entitle, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning. During that talk, Hedges stated that those in the Muslim world view us through the prism of Palestine and Iraq. The point being that being for justice is evidenced when one’s concern is for others and not just for oneself.

    • No, as the article makes painfully clear, Christians are being targeted because they are Christians. It’s called “ethnic cleansing” and the murder and mayhem will only increase if Assad is removed.

      If you knew anything about Christians in the Middle East, you’d know that they are very sympathetic to the situation of the Palestinians. Again, you are way off base, platitudes about “being for justice” notwithstanding.

  • I don’t have to explain anything to you, as my previous comment was perfectly consistent with the quote. What’s more, you have no idea what you’re talking about on the subject of Arab Christians. With every new comment, you compound the errors.

    • Curt Day

      You seem insistent on pointing out my errors. And yet the only one you could point out were questions and not assertions.

      You wrote that they are being targeted [simply] because they are Christians. I disagreed. I wrote that associations played a role in their targeting. Associations such as their ties to the Assad government would paint them as enemies of the rebels. And that is what those quotes point to. If a group is positively associated with the Syrian gov’t, then they will be targeted.

      Ethnic cleansing doesn’t always occur simply because of the ethnicity. Sometimes, associations between the targeted group and other groups play a role. The foremost example is how Hitler, who hated the Jews in the first place, also associated them with the Bolsheviks which added to his desire to eliminate them.

      Again, association can easily play a role in ethnic cleansing. And though the answer to my questions regarding whether the Syrian Christians’ supported the Palestinians is easily answered, because America is often viewed as a Christian country by some, how America behaves in the Middle East is partially seen as representing Christianity. And that is where I would go back to Hedges’ statement that Muslims in certain parts of the world view us, and this will include Christians through the”prism” of America’s actions in the Middle East.

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