News / Middle East

Seeking Safety, Syria's Christians Flee to Turkey

Syrian Christians and Muslims offer prayers for nuns held by rebels, at the Greek Orthodox Mariamiya Church in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013.
Syrian Christians and Muslims offer prayers for nuns held by rebels, at the Greek Orthodox Mariamiya Church in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013.
Dorian Jones
The growing presence of fighters from radical Islamic groups battling the Syrian regime is increasing pressure on Syria’s ancient Assyrian Christians, many of whom are fleeing to neighboring Turkey.

At the Mort Smuni Church in the Turkish city of Mardin near the Syrian border, the service of St. John the Baptist is part of Advent, when an individual saint is celebrated every Sunday in the run-up to Christmas.

The members of the small Assyrian Christian community gathered for services are joined by fellow Assyrians who have fled from Syria, just a couple hours drive down the road.

After the services, Father Gabriel meets with church community elders to discuss how to assist the growing numbers of refugees.

Currently, they are supporting over a hundred families. He says the rise of Islamic groups fighting the Syrian regime is forcing many Christians to flee.
 
"In Syria, the conditions for Christians is very bad," he said. "Last week they have kidnapped 12 nuns and, before, two bishops, and they killed many, many Christians and kidnap many persons and told them you must be Muslims. "
 
Isa Davut and his family fled to Syria earlier this year, after jihadists took control of the town they lived in.
 
"The reason Christians no longer feel safe is that all these radical Islamic groups, jihadis, started to come to Syria," he said.  "Where we live, 10 churches have been burned down. They started to threaten Christians in the town we live. When the local priest was executed, we decided to leave."
 
The Davut family lives just a short walk from the church. Home for the family of five is just one living room and a small back room. There is water on the floor from heavy rain leaking in from the roof. The back room is unusable because of the water. This Christmas will be a difficult one, with images of Christmas back in Syria lingering in their memories. Isa’s son Jorg explains.

"I want to go back home as soon as possible, to be back with my friends, especially now that it's Christmas," Isa’s son Jorg said. "Christmas is a special time, the streets would be illuminated with lights and everyone would decorate their doors. It was a time everyone came together in peace. This year, my heart is broken."
 
But, returning home is unlikely. Isa says safety for him and his family now lies in Sweden, where they have relatives.
 
Back at the Mort Smuni Church, Father Gabriel reflects on the magnitude of the events. He sees the current exodus of Christians from Syria as another chapter in the demise of ancient Christian populations in the region.
 
"Before war in Iraq, there were about 2.5 million Christians, but now I think only 500,000 people [Christians] staying in Iraq," he said. "It will be Syria also. Many, many persons are trying to go out of Syria to European countries."

Along with prayer, Father Gabriel and the rest of Mardin’s Assyrian Christian community are working hard to prepare for the expected increasing numbers of fellow Christians.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Nicholas Akuamoah-Boateng from: Kumasi-Ghana
December 22, 2013 7:35 PM
Assad is not a human being! The same thing applies to the leaders of Russia and China. They are just wicked!!

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
December 18, 2013 10:26 AM
Not as if Turkey is going to be any safer, unfortunately. But that is one of those things one must sacrifice being a Christian. Out here my prayer goes to these suffering and endangered species of peoples all over the world. I pray the Lord to give them strength to go through this troubling time, as well as provide and supply all their needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. While we know that the Christians' greatest weapon is prayer, it is also necessary to have sons of Christians and able bodied young adults to enlist in the army to help foster the peace and security of their people in times like this. Now it has become transparent to everyone that the so-called Arab Spring has not been any positive development; instead it is a setback by all ramifications. It was thought to foster democracy, now we see that democracy and islam are two strange bed mates.

by: franco from: nigeria
December 18, 2013 12:56 AM
It is such a pity to see such suffering, Amnesty International is such a feckless organisation that'd turn a blind eye on evil against christians,but see with eagle eye clarity when islam is affected.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More