News / Middle East

Syrian Christians Face Bleak Christmas

Syrian Christians Face Bleak Christmasi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
James Brooke
December 21, 2012 11:30 PM
As Christmas approaches, Syria's 2 million Christians are not celebrating. They are worrying. If an Islamist government replaces the secular government of Bashar al-Assad, they wonder what the future will be for Syria's religious minorities. James Brooke reports from Beirut.
Syrian Christians Face Bleak Christmas
James Brooke
Christmas trees and lights decorate this city on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean. As Christmas approaches, however, Syria's 2 million Christians are not celebrating. They are worrying. If an Islamist government replaces the secular government of Bashar al-Assad, they wonder what the future will be for Syria's religious minorities.

Daniel, an Armenian Orthodox, escaped from Syria three months ago with his wife and five children.

"I had to come here. Because we as a Christian sect are targeted. Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaida people, came and displaced us," he said.

  • Christmas decorations outside the ancient tomb of a sheik in old Beirut. Lebanon, December 2012. (VOA/V.Undritz)
  • Beirut families take photos in front of Christmas trees and decorations in the new Souk shopping district, Lebanon, December 2012. (VOA/V. Undritz)
  • Santa and his red and white uniformed helpers charm Christians and Muslim children alike at the Christmas Bazaar, Beirut, Lebanon, December 2012. (VOA/V. Undritz)
  • On the campus of the American University of Beirut, golden balls and green leaves make for a Mediterranean Christmas scene, Lebanon, December 2012. (VOA/V.Undritz)
  • In Beirut's Armenian district, a window display features a Santa smoking tobacco in a Middle Eastern water pipe, Lebanon, December 2012. (VOA/V.Undritz)
  • Backed by new apartment highrises, Christmas stars signal start of Christmas Bazaar on the Marina waterfront of Beirut's St. George's Bay, Lebanon, December 2012. (VOA/V. Undritz)
  • In Beirut's Armenian quarter, Christmas balls and bells near a statue of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus, Lebanon, December 2012. (VOA/V.Undritz)
  • Gea Ibrahim blows a kiss after attending a Christmas party for Crowne Plaza Beirut employees and family members, Beirut, Lebanon, December 2012. (VOA/V.Undritz)
  • Christmas lights shine in pedestrian mall in Beirut, Lebanon, December 2012. (VOA/V.Undritz)
  • Red Stars top bank building in Beirut's new downtown financial center, Lebanon, December 2012. (VOA/V. Undritz)

Tolerance fades

Before the civil war, he said, Syria was a secular nation of religious tolerance.

“At the garage where I worked, there were Armenians, Christians, Muslims,” Daniel, a 48-year-old car mechanic, said. “We ate together, I would go eat at their place. We would not ask if someone was Muslim or Christian.”

After Egypt, Syria has the second largest population of Christians in the Arab world - about 2 million people.

Christians dwindle

Kamal Sioufi, president of Caritas Lebanon, a Christian charity, worries about the future of Christianity in the region.

"The problem is in all the countries of the Middle East: the number of Muslim is increasing, the number of Christians is decreasing, and the power is for the Muslim, it is not for Christians," said Sioufi.

The losers in Syria's civil war could be the Christians, about 10 percent of the population.

"The problem is the minority because they haven't any power is Syria, so they have… they will be people of a second category," said Sioufi.

Christian refugees are hard to track in Lebanon. They often disappear into relatives' houses and keep hidden.

Embracing life

Daniel has two sisters in Beirut. To boost his spirits, Lidia sings "Silent Night" in Armenian. She described the Christmas feast, starting with a turkey stuffed with chestnuts.

"We make rice and sprinkle nuts on it. And our mother has taught us a Syrian recipe, ham stuffed with garlic, carrots and the like. Kebbe we stuff with meat. And we do chicken breast with sesame seed paste," she said.

But with half of his extended family trapped in Syria, Daniel is concerned about the future.

He recalled that his family survived only because his grandparents left Turkey ahead of the mass killings of Armenians in 1915.

"In 1915 my grandparents were very wealthy. They left everything and moved. Because of them we are alive today. And I left everything because of my children. We don't have Christmas."

This Christmas, Daniel’s gift to his children may be life.

You May Like

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
December 24, 2012 11:42 PM
If you are a minority, in Syria, the Salafis that lead the rebels, will make your life HELL. Silly people don't understand this.


by: Will from: Bucharest
December 22, 2012 11:48 PM
Maybe if the Christians didn't side with a dying regime...


by: Grin Olsson from: Alaska
December 22, 2012 7:45 AM
Muslim intolerance of Christian values and peoples where churches are still burned, people not allowed to practice their faith publicly, forced marriages to Muslims, and innocent killings because of differences of spiritual attitudes and opinions will be met with swift and decisive future action if Islam does not change and accommodate people's right to worship God by their individual conscience without repercussions. This is a fact of human nature.


by: kabalane from: beirut
December 21, 2012 11:18 PM
the displaced christians of Syria should find refuge in lebanon and international organisations should support them and help them stay indefinitely in lebanon and maybe get citizenship and help the muslim-christian balance in Lebanon in the future.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid