Christianity in Syria: a policy of persecution or deliberate attempts to eliminate it once and for all (part 5)

By Milad Korkis Syriac journalist

In 2015 and 2016, Syriacs suffered several targeted bombings and attacks in their living areas and neighborhoods where they formed a majority. Dozens of Syriac civilians were martyred by the bombings and attacks. The climax was on that New Year’s Eve and in the following months several more attacks were carried out. In June 2016, an attacker attempted to bomb the commemoration ceremony of the Sayfo Genocide of 1915 in Zalin (Qamishli) which was presided over by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch.

After these attacks, the Belgian government opened its doors and received hundreds of Christian refugees, mostly families with children, from Aleppo and Al-Jazeera region in northeast Syria. This was part of a complex operation by the Belgian government to welcome in 244 Christians in Belgium from Aleppo.

In a mid-2016 report by the Russian Foreign Ministry, it announced that the number of Christians in Syria had fallen by 1 million since the beginning of the war, from 2.2 million to 1.2 million, and the Russians expressed their worries about a similar fate as the Christians of Iraq underwent. The vast majority of Iraqi Christians had left since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s Baath regime. Constantine Dolgov, the Ministry’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law noted that armed groups in Eastern Ghouta were targeting Christian neighborhoods and places in the capital Damascus such as Bab Touma, al-Qasa and Jaramana.

On 17 October 2017, after a long battle that caused the city of Raqqa to be almost completely destroyed, the Syrian Democratic Forces announced the liberation of Raqqa from ISIS. Raqqa was the stronghold of ISIS in Syria. In December 2017, Christians of Raqqa celebrated Christmas in the city for the first time since 2014. Some churches have now been restored to their former status.

News reports in the year 2019 indicated that more and more Syrian Kurds have converted from Islam to Christianity in the town of Ayn Al-Arab (Kobane) which was heavily besieged by ISIS for months. The Kurds from Ayn Al-Arab say the experience of war with ISIS prompted them to convert to Christianity, and after several families had converted to Christianity the first evangelical church was opened in 2018 in this Syrian-Turkish border town.

The reports also indicated that in Kurdish-majority areas in northern Syria, secularism and non-religiosity have increased while Christianity spread in Ayn Al-Arab (Kobane) and Zalin (Qamishli). Critics view the new converts with suspicion and accuse them of seeking personal gain, obtaining financial aid from Christian organizations operating in the region, jobs and improving their chances of emigrating to European countries. The new Christians in Ayn Al-Arab (Kobane), on the other hand, deny these claims and say that their transformation is purely a matter of faith.

To be continued…

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4