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

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf 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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs