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Thursday, 24 October 2013

Syria's Christians Flee Rebel Crosshairs

Groups of Jihadists are increasingly targeting Christian communities, lumping them together as "pro Assad." More than a third of Christians have fled. Some worry about the future of Christianity in the country.

In the days after a sharpshooter put his brother in the crosshairs and pulled the trigger, Jalal Gazouha lived as if in a cloud. "I almost went crazy with grief," the Syrian explained on the telephone. The connection crackles. The 29-year-old's brother was killed by al Qaeda fighters in the western Syrian city of al-Qusayr, close to the Lebanese border. Gazouha is convinced that his brother was killed because he was Christian. "They want to drive us out of Syria," he told DW.

By "they," he's referring to Jihadists from countries neighboring Syria - with a few hundred from Germany mixed in - who have joined in the Syrian civil war to fight against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. According to Gazouha, they're also targeting Christians. Twenty of his family members have been murdered, he says. When Gazouha received death threats, he fled the country. "I saw my name on a list on the Internet. That list contained names of Christians who were supposed to be killed, he says, written by "the terrorists of al Qaeda."

Jean Kawak, an Aramaic bishop from Damascus, chose his words carefully when he spoke about the subject with DW. "We Christians have recently felt threatened by particular radical Islamist groups," he said.

Kawak's own sister was forced to flee Ma'loula, a small, largely Christian village just an hour's drive north of Damascus. Islamist rebel groups attacked that village, carried out fire attacks on two churches in Rakka in north central Syria and also kidnapped two Syrian bishops in April; the culprits behind the latter attack, eyewitnesses said, were foreign Jihadists. All of these things, the Aramaic bishop says, "affect our Christian presence within Syria." One-third of Christians have fled the country in the last two years due to the civil war - with numbers increasing.

These radicalized groups are not only targeting Christians though, Kawak says. "Moderate Muslims are also being threatened."

Read more here:
Syria's Christians Flee Rebel Crosshairs

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