Syrian Christians face the difficult question of how to preserve their communities. The Islamic State (ISIS) and other Islamist groups target Christians for a variety of reasons, including to gain credibility as the implementers of “true” Islam and for economic reasons, forcing Christians to pay higher taxes (Jizya), seizing their property, and even capturing Christians as slaves. Christians in regime territories are safe from immediate danger, but struggle to keep their communities together.
Despite Assad’s efforts to portray himself domestically and internationally as a protector of Christians, the prelate who hosted me this past August in Damascus was openly critical of him. The prelate, who asked not to be named, said of Bashar al-Assad, “He is a dictator trying to save his head, only interested in himself and his family, not even his [Alawite] sect.”
However, the fact that the prelate has no love for Bashar al-Assad does not mean that he is going to turn on him. The prelate’s priority is his community and he feels that no one else is protecting Syrian Christians. “Western governments are not helping, with the exception of Germany, whose government has provided food parcels, medical kits, and education programs to our Church organizations and maybe to others as well.” He continued, “They are willing to help Iraqi Christians because they are persecuted by ISIS, but here in Syria we are considered to be pro-regime.”
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