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Syria: increasing incidence of religiously-motivated attacks against Christians

CIRCULATION CODE 3. OPEN.  May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organizations, and quoted from freely in reports citing “Middle East Concern” as the source of the information.

Syrian Christians continue to request our prayers for their country. They note that, in recent months, there have been increasing numbers of attacks on Christians that seem to be religiously motivated.

There have been a spate of reported incidents involving the kidnapping of Christians. One example occurred on 9th February when two priests, Michel Kayyal (Armenian Catholic) and Maher Mahfouz (Greek Orthodox), were kidnapped when travelling by public bus between Damascus and Aleppo. The bus was stopped by armed men belonging to one of the groups fighting the government. The gunmen checked the identity documents of all passengers and only the two priests were taken. A Salesian priest travelling with them was not kidnapped. Negotiations for their release are on-going. Other kidnappings have been reported, especially in al-Hasakah Province where some Christians have demonstrated publicly to protest against this alarming new trend.

There have been a number of assaults on Church buildings and other Christian property. Such attacks are often interpreted as warnings or threats to the Christian communities. One example occurred on 10th February when gunmen vandalised the historic church of Saint Maroun in Barad village, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Aleppo.

Syrian Christian leaders continue to note that there are political and economic motivations in many of these attacks. However, they identify a rising tendency for religiously motivated attack, linking this to the increasing prevalence and influence of religiously extremist groups amidst the opposition movement.

Syrian Church leaders also note the severe economic challenges faced by Syrians, with ever-rising numbers of internally displaced persons and Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. Churches and Christian ministries remain active in helping to meet some of the overwhelming needs.

Syrian Christians request our prayers that:

a.  The violence in Syria would cease, and peace and justice would be established for all Syrians

b.  Those that have been kidnapped would be released unharmed, and no further kidnapping incidents would occur

c.  There would be no further acts of vandalism against Church property

d.  Those engaging in programmes to meet the needs of their communities, and of refugees and the displaced, would know the Lord’s provision and enabling

e.  Syrian Christians, and especially church leaders, will know the Spirit’s wisdom and guidance each day

f.  All those using violence, including against Christians and Church property, would know the Spirit’s conviction and seek the forgiveness of the Father through the life, death and resurrection of the Son.

Middle East Christian Outreach


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