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2013-06-28

ASIA/SYRIA - New report on the civil war: Christians are among the "most vulnerable"

Damascus (Agenzia Fides) - As the sacrifice of human lives in the Syrian conflict reaches the threshold of 100 thousand deaths, a detailed 78-page report commissioned and published by Open Doors International (relief agency for persecuted Christians founded by the Dutch evangelical missionary Anne van der Bijl) and sent to Fides Agency with objective data documenting the particular exposure of the Syrian Christian communities to the disastrous consequences of the civil war. The report, entitled Vulnerability Assessment of Syria's Christians and edited by geo-political analyst Nicholas Heras, collects and exhibits with scientific rigor "vulnerability" factors that characterize the condition of Christians in the current scenario in Syria.
Unlike other minority groups such as the Alawites and Kurds, lined up against the opposition forces - we read in the report of Open Doors - the position of Christians compared to the fronts in conflict appears to be more complex. Christian intellectuals such as Michel Kilo, Faiz Sara and George Sabra (current president of the cartel opposition Syrian National Coalition) have since the beginning exercised a role recognized in the sphere of dissidence. Even many Christians had participated in the anti-regime demonstrations to demand greater freedom and democracy, before the conflict spread throughout the Country. The study carried out by Open Doors speaks of Christians among the militia of the Free Syrian Army, the military arm of the opposition. On the opposite side, even many Christians are enrolled in the popular self-defense Committees born to defend their villages and settlements from raids by opposition militias.
According to the analysis edited by Heras, in the first phase of the conflict targeted attacks on Christians as such were not registered. Over time, the gradual transformation of the Civil War in a sectarian conflict saw an increase in murders, kidnappings, rapes and violence against Christians carried out by Salafis and jihadists (as the intimidations inflicted on the Christians of Homs by the Battalion al-Farouq, with the imposition of the Islamic "protection" tax) that spread panic among the baptized Syrians.
The report of Open Doors collects news from multiple sources on violence suffered by Christians and describes in detail the objective factors that make the Christian community one of the most vulnerable groups in the bloody vortex, which is destroying the Country, starting from the fact of them being concentrated in strategic areas (areas of Damascus, Homs and Aleppo and the border areas with Lebanon and Turkey) in the center of military confrontation. The Christians - the report says - pay the fact of "being in the crossfire of the battle, suffering violence from both sides." They are "easy" targets for all criminal groups that take advantage of the chaos. They suffer more hostility and harassment in refugee camps. They are the subject of targeted attacks that become more frequent by Islamist gangs. There are proportionally more refugees and displaced persons among the Christian population than among other ethnic and religious groups. And their vulnerability is accentuated by the reluctance to organize themselves into self-defense sectarian militias. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 28/06/2013).

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