November 20, 2011
Christian Today reports of growing concerns for the future of Christians in Syria, including the thousands of Iraqi immigrants seeking refuge there. At least 3,500 people have been killed at the hands of the Syrian military in the past eight months since anti-government demonstrations broke out, and president Bashar al-Assad continues to defy calls to step down amid international outcry at the regime's crackdown. Christians in Syria, however, fear that if Assad falls, the nation will descend into further chaos as Iraq did post-Saddam Hussein -- with militant Islamists rising to power and freely wreaking havoc on the Christian community. "Most of the Iraqi Christians living in Syria are worried because they do not want to see Syrian Christians passing through the same path as happened with them in Iraq," said one church leader. Many Syrian Christians have stayed away from the anti-Assad protests because of the reasonable amount of religious freedom they enjoyed under his rule, said Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo of Barnabus Fund: "Syria has been very much a safe haven for Christians in the Middle East, one of the few Arab countries where they were treated with respect and had equality with the Muslim majority. Syria also has a history of welcoming in persecuted Christians from other countries. But I greatly fear that within the near future we will see a new Iraq developing in Syria."