Syriac and Armenian Churches in Raqqa remain closed

RAQQA, Syria – Years after the liberation of Raqqa from the Islamic State (ISIS), the city’s churches are still closed and without Divine Liturgies.

According to a report of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), many Christian families from Raqqa were displaced during ISIS control. This came after they were greatly persecuted and prevented from practicing their religious rituals. ISIS took control of churches and vandalized them or used them as storages or military training grounds. It also carried out arrest campaigns against Christians and imposed adherence to strict Islamic teachings.

The SOHR said that only about 30 Christian families are currently living in the city. The report indicated that Christians in Raqqa are divided into three main churches: The Syriac Melkite (Roum), who have the Church of the Annunciation and which is currently destroyed. The Armenian Catholics. They have the Church of the Martyrs that was restored and reopened last November. The Armenian Orthodox, they have a church located inside a school that is currently destroyed.

In February 2014, ISIS imposed restrictions on the Syriac and Armenia Christian residents of Raqqa, including the payment of tribute (Jizya) and they were only allowed to practice their religious rituals in special places. Christians are viewed in Islam as ‘Ahl al-Kitab’ and are condoned as secondary believers.