There are growing concerns for the future of Christians in Syria and the thousands of Iraqis seeking refuge there.
President Bashar al-Assad continues to defy calls to step down amid international outcry over his regime’s crackdown on the uprising that has gripped Syria for the last eight months.
The UN estimates that at least 3,500 people have been killed at the hands of the military since anti-government demonstrations broke out.
The worsening situation prompted the Arab League to suspend Syria on Saturday. Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan are the latest leaders to say the Syrian President should go.
Christians in the country, however, fear that if Assad falls, Syria will descend into the same chaos as Iraq did post-Saddam Hussein.
While the influence of militant Islamists was restrained under Saddam, they were virtually free to wreak havoc on Iraq’s Christian community after his demise.
The scale of the violence, which has included deadly bomb attacks on churches, has caused thousands of Christians to flee Iraq, many of them ending up in Syria.
A Syrian church leader and coordinator of Barnabas Fund’s food programme for Iraqi Christian refugees in Syria said: “Most of the Iraqi Christians living in Syria are worried because they do not want to see Syrian Christians passing through the same path as happened with them in Iraq.
“They are lifting their prayers for a safe and secure Syria and for it to continue to be a safe haven.”
Barnabas Fund said many Christians in Syria had stayed away from the protests because of the reasonable amount of religious freedom they have enjoyed under President Assad.
The organisation, which supports persecuted Christians, said more funds were desperately needed to help meet the practical needs of Christians affected by the crisis.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said: “Syria has been very much a safe haven for Christians in the Middle East, one of the few Arab countries where they were treated with respect and had equality with the Muslim majority.
“Syria also has a history of welcoming in persecuted Christians from other countries. But I greatly fear that within the near future we will see a new Iraq developing in Syria.
“Barnabas Fund is standing with our brothers and sisters during this tumultuous time through both prayer and practical support. Please help us to help them.”
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