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

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    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.
    Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora