Most Orthodox Christians in Syria live in the westernmost parts of that country. It is from here that most of the Christians have been forced to flee for their lives, mainly to the Lebanon. Catholic sources now say that 65% of the natives of Aleppo, once the largest Christian city in Syria, have fled, that every single parish both in the city centre and in the suburbs of Homs, the third largest city in Syria, has been devastated, and that in Damascus itself most parishes have closed and the enthronement of Patriarch John took place in a half-empty Cathedral; it was necessary to hold another enthronement in Beirut. After the Golgotha of Iraq’s Christians, Syria has followed. The Patriarchate, forced out of Antioch (in Turkey), may now be forced out of Damascus in turn. Two news reports follow.
Syria: Muslim Militia Forces Christian Exodus
Posted GMT 3-2-2013 7:12:8
Syria’s 2,000-year-old Christian community is being devastated by the country’s civil war.
A Swedish journalist interviewed more than 100 Syrian Christian refugees in Turkey and
Lebanon. They say Muslim rebel militia are driving them out because of their faith.
One woman said her husband and son were shot in the head just because they were
Syria’s population of 2 million Christians is the second largest in the Middle East after Egypt,
and now whole villages are disappearing when Islamist rebels arrive. Every week, hundreds of Syrian Christians arrive in Lebanon. A Lebanese Patriarch said it is a ‘great exodus taking place in silence.’
CBN Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell spoke with Lela Gilbert, co-author
of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, about the persecution of Christians
in Syria and the Middle East.
Watch more of Mitchell’s interview with Gilbert.
Number of Syrians in Lebanon Reaches 920,000
Posted GMT 3-2-2013 7:15:51
According to Lebanese government sources, more than 920,000 Syrians (both migrant
workers and persons displaced from the war) are now in Lebanon. The security problems are
getting worse in many areas in Lebanon because many of these Syrians are armed. Western
diplomats in Lebanon have praised the Lebanese government for its cooperation and for not
closing the Lebanese-Syrian border, just as they have praised the Lebanese people for
hosting displaced Syrian families.
But some Western ambassadors have begun to warn Lebanese officials that the displaced
Syrians now constitute a ‘powder keg’, especially since Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s
opponents have started thinking of forming armed militias in Lebanon, risking a war between
them and the Lebanese. (There are precise figures about the armed Syrians, which show
they are all over Lebanon, including the capital.)
According to Western circles, the gravity of the issue is pressuring the Lebanese government
to keep a close eye on displaced Syrians in Lebanon. These Western circles told As-Safir
that the Syrian crisis could spread to Lebanon.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati is consistent with the Western officials he meets (most
recently, British Foreign Secretary William Hague when he visited Lebanon, and UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in Davos). He has given Western countries three options: to
close the border with Syria, which is impossible for practical and geographic reasons,
especially since 80% of the Lebanese border is shared with Syria; to transfer some of those
displaced to other countries or for Lebanon to be quickly given material aid as its
humanitarian burden grows.
Of course, the third option is preferred by Western countries and the UN, even though they
are very slow in providing the funds promised at the conference for displaced Syrians in
Circles close to Mikati told As-Safir that ‘the disbursement of funds is very slow. Lebanon is
in immediate need of $370 million but all we have received so far are promises’. The two
countries that generally keep their promises of money are ‘Kuwait and the UAE, which are
giving large amounts of money for the displaced’….
By Marlene Khalifeh
Translated from As-Safir (Lebanon).