Syria in Flames: Is This How to Defend Our Faith?
Although a flood of refugees is pouring out of war-torn Syria, thousands of Christians are choosing to stay. They are determined to fulfil their high calling as living witnesses of Christ’s love, mercy and grace. That’s no easy assignment in the middle of a multi-sided civil war between murderous extremists who hate you.
BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
A Syrian Christian youth choir
“St. Thecla, who is supposedly buried in the convent, was a follower of St. Paul. The inhabitants are mostly Melkite Greek Catholic and Orthodox Christians, but have historically lived peacefully alongside a Sunni Muslim minority. It is one of only three places in the world where Western Aramaic, a dialect of the language spoken by Christ, is still used.
“Until recently, the town had managed to remain mostly unaffected by the civil war that has already claimed more than 100,000 lives. A visit by the Daily Telegraph last year found it ringed by government checkpoints but suffering from the lack of pilgrims and tourists who are normally vital to its economy.”
Residents say several rebel groups – a mix of the extremist Jabhat al-Nusra and the more moderate Free Syrian Army, attacked the village.
“First they took a brick factory owned by a Christian guy, who is now missing,” said the resident. “Then at around 5.30 a.m., a car bomb detonated at the checkpoint at the entrance to the village. Some of the rebels entered a home near the checkpoint belonging to Yousef Haddad, a Christian. They tried to force him to convert to Islam.”
A nun living in a convent in the village told the Associated Press that 27 orphans living in the convent were taken to nearby caves for shelter.
How are Christians under such assault supposed to defend their faith? Many cite Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane who chastised the Apostle Peter for drawing a sword in defense of the Saviour.
Egyptian Christians are under the same pressure – with thousands opting to leave embattled areas rather than join in the fighting on one side or the other.
On Sunday, the news network SAT-7 aired footage of Egyptians worshipping in the remains of the Evangelical Church of Beni Mazar in the town of Minia, Upper Egypt, It was one of over 80 Egyptian churches targeted in violent.
“Dark smears mark where flames licked the outside walls of the church building after arsonists set it ablaze,” reported SAT-7. “The charred hull of the interior is crumbling and peeling where wood and paint previously existed. Singed wiring hangs loose from the ceiling. On 14th August, Rev. Hany Jacque received a phone call notifying him that angry rioters had broken in the door of the church. For seven hours, the rioters stole furniture from inside, broke the glass windows, and burned the church’s books, including its Bibles. They also looted and burned its community services building next door, which had provided medical and financial assistance to all the residents of Beni Mazar, regardless of their religion.”