By Sean Savage/JNS.org
Click photo to download. Caption: The town of Zweitina in Wadi al-Nassara, which means “Valley of Christians,” in western Syria. Credit: Anas Salloum via Wikimedia Commons.
Caught between the larger Sunni-Shi’a battles
for supremacy in Syria, Christians are forced to contemplate an uncertain
future as Western powers debate action against the government of Bashar
Syrian Christians are faced with a difficult
situation due to their country’s civil war. Many Christians support Assad out
of fear that if he is overthrown and replaced by Islamists, they will face
greater persecution, especially from al-Qaeda-linked Sunni Muslim rebel groups
such as Jabhat al-Nusra, who have attacked Christians. At the same time, Assad
and his government are supported by Iran and its Lebanese terror proxy,
Hezbollah, and have used chemical weapons against the Syrian people.
Christian villagers in Wadi al-Nassara (Valley
of Christians) in western Syria, home to around 50,000 Christians, have formed
“popular defense committees” with the blessing of the Syrian government,
according to AFP.
These “popular defense committees” are militias
that are armed and trained by the Syrian government to supplement the Syrian
army and protect their own neighborhoods or villages from attacks by rebels.
Many of these militias are comprised of Syrian minority groups such as the
Christians, Druze and Alawites.
While Assad may have links to Iran and Hezbollah,
his secular government, led by the minority Alawites, has proven to be friendlier
towards Christians than other regional elements, compounding the uncertainty
surrounding Syrian Christians’ future.
“The Syrian state
provides more protection and freedom for Christians and religious minorities
than any other Muslim-majority state in the region, including the regional
allies (namely Jordan and Turkey) the U.S. has enlisted in the effort to
overthrow it,” Dr. John Eibner, CEO of Christian Solidarity International, a
Christian human rights group that has extensively worked with Syrian refugees
on the ground, told JNS.org.
At the same time,
Eibner pointed out that there is no safe alternative for Christians with the
rebel groups, who have largely been infiltrated by well-funded, organized and
experienced Al-Qaeda terrorists.
rebel group in Syria has demonstrated a similar commitment to the protection of
religious minorities or an ability to provide the basic functions of the state,
and many rebel groups–some of the most powerful of which are allied to al
Qaida–are guilty of acts of religious cleansing against Syria’s minorities.
Those who propose to attack or overthrow the Syrian state are responsible for
ensuring the safety of all of Syria’s citizens after its fall,” Eibner said.
Emanuel Aydin, a bishop in the Syria Orthodox
Church, told the Washington Times in
early August that he estimates about 300 Christians have been killed in the Syrian
civil war, and about 500,000 have fled.
Syrian-born Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire
III Laham also warned against Western intervention in Syria.