Rebel groups presume the Christians support the government – although Goriye’s Christian Syriac Union party has long been in opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. While speaking to the Telegraph, Christian leader members “were loath to criticize the opposition rebels, but many confessed that the situation had become ‘too bad’ not to talk about it,” reported Sherlock.
“Rebels said we had to pay money for the revolution,” a refugee told the Telegraph. “My cousin is a farmer, and wanted to check on his land. I warned him he should take armed security but he refused. A group kidnapped him in the barn of his farm. We had to pay $60,000 for his release. They are milking the Christians.”
“A few prayer requests from churches inside Syria – ” reported Open Doors, “include lasting peace, counselling for children who have been traumatized by violence, support for almost one-third of the Syrian population who are either refugees outside the country or homeless inside Syria, medicines, food and other relief materials get to those most in need.”
A Syrian Orthodox pastor
But included in the prayer request was that Christians around the world pray that the Syriac Christians remaining in the war zone “be a salt and light in their community even as civil war rages. “
Much of Syria’s Christian community has avoided “choosing sides” in the war, seeking self-preservation in neutrality, reported Sherlock. “But the strategy has left Christians defenseless in the face of sectarian attacks and the lawlessness that now define rebel-held areas. Last year, when government forces pulled out al-Hasakah province, leaving the terrain in the hands of Kurdish groups and Sunni opposition rebel, Christians became an easy target.
“A Christian man calling himself Joseph and living in al-Hasakah said: ‘The only unprotected group are the Christians. The Arabs had arms coming from Saudi and Qatar, the Kurds had help from Kurdistan. We had no weapons at all.’”
“The deadly violence percolating half a world away in Syria and the warnings of a possible U.S. attack have some people not only looking ahead to what might happen in the coming days — but also looking backward into ancient, apocalyptic prophecies in the pages of the Old Testament,” writes J.D. Gallop in USA Today newspaper.
“In recent weeks, some dire prophecies have turned up on websites, in book stores, as the subject of Bible studies and in sermons by some Christians and others who see a link between the old passages and modern-day events in Egypt, Libya and Syria.”
After all, “Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city, and will become a fallen ruin,” reads Isaiah 17, a passage some Christians say they believe details a horrific event that leaves the city uninhabitable and leads to worldwide tribulation and the second coming of Christ, notes Gallop.
“Another passage in Isaiah 19 deals with civil war in Egypt and the rise of a ‘fierce king.’ Talk of those prophecies has intensified as President Barack Obama considers a U.S. military strike on Syria in response to what Washington says is evidence that the Syrian leadership used chemical weapons against its own people. In turn, Syria vows to retaliate against neighboring Israel if the U.S. strikes.
“Fighting raged through the picturesque mountain village of Maaloula, near Damascus,” reported Sherlock with the Telegraph’s Magdy Samaan, as the regime launched a counter-attack against the rebels.
“They entered the main square and smashed a statue of the Virgin Mary,” said one resident of the area, speaking by phone and too frightened to give his name. “They shelled us from the nearby mountain. Two shells hit the St Thecla convent.”
“Maaloula, tucked into the honey-colored cliffs of a mountain range north of Damascus and on a ‘tentative’ list of applicants for Unesco World Heritage status, is associated with the earliest days of Christianity,” noted the Telegraph.
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.