- (Photo: Reuters/SANA/Handout)
Christians in Syria are caught in the middle of an ever-growing conflict between government troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebel fighters who want to bring down his regime.
"If Assad falls, Christians in Syria are fearful of what will happen when a new government – probably a radical Islamic one – will come into power," Open Doors USA President and CEO Dr. Carl Moeller said in a statement. "Will their freedom to worship end? Will persecution increase? Will they have to flee Syria with their families as have thousands of believers in Iraq?"
Conflicting reports put the number of dead in Syria since the violence began last year from anywhere between 10,000 and 17,000 people – with many of the casualties being Christians from the city of Homs who have been stuck in the crossfire. It is estimated that there are around 1.5 million Christians in the nation.
Last week, the top Christian official in the country, Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha, 65, a former army general, died in a blast in Damascus that targeted several government officials. This prompted a number of political analysts to express fears about the stability of the Syrian capital, seeing it as a sign that Assad's regime may be in serious danger of conceding power to the rebels.
While the rebel groups attacking the government have not yet detailed a plan of how they will run the country should they be successful in their mission, many fear they might make use of Sharia law and impose a radical Islamic agenda on the country. Some sources have even tied Syria's rebels to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida-style jihadists.
"Already thousands have been targeted and have fled Syria. Some have been forced to flee from cities like Homs and seek shelter and help from Christian churches in the area. Christians who supported Assad could face reprisal from the rebels. There is just a tremendous fear for their future," Moeller added.
"Pray that if the rebels overthrow the Assad regime, that they will not retaliate against Christians, forcing a mass exodus of believers from Syria," he urged. "Pray for an end to the chaos and violence. Pray that Syria will allow freedom of religion for all minorities. And pray that Christians will continue to reach out to Muslims who are also suffering from the violence."
The Christian organization has been helping send emergency relief packages to Christians in Syria, but has said the international community needs to step up to provide more food and medical supplies to those in need.
"The aid will help them survive. And it will be enhanced by the other work that Open Doors is doing in Syria, such as providing biblical training, trauma counseling and discipleship training," Open Doors has said.