Christians facing humanitarian crisis in Syria

Published 15 September 2012  |  
Christians in Syria are in desperate need as the country continues to be ravaged by conflict; many are trying to leave, while those who remain are struggling to survive as essential supplies run short, according to the Barnabas Fund.

The Christian charity this week received a report from a church leader in
Aleppo, which has seen some of the heaviest fighting in the war between President Assad's troops and opposition forces.

He said: "We are facing tough times. The economy is very, very bad. We have shortage of bread, food, medicine, kids' milk. no fuel for cars, nor gas for cooking... The prices of food are five times more. Now and since two days we don't have water. Hoping that soon the problem will be solved, otherwise we will face a disaster. Most of the people are in a disturbed and bewildered situation and they don't know what to do."

Barnabas Fund went on to report that many Syrian Christians are fleeing the country in a desperate bid to protect their families from the violence and hardship of war. The need to escape is intensifying as Christians increasingly become targets of the opposition fighters, who perceive them as being Assad loyalists.

Many surrounding nations are also in a state of instability, not to mention overtly Islamist, so Syrian Christians are now looking to Europe for refuge. Hundreds of desperate Christian families have put themselves into the hands of human traffickers in order to get to Greece, with the aim of moving on to relatives in other European countries.

One man, who sold everything he owned to get his family of ten to Greece, said that every Christian wants to leave Syria but many do not have the resources to do so.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, Internationa l Director of Barnabas Fund, said:
"There are 2.3 million Christians in Syria who have become the helpless victims of this dreadful conflict. Those trapped in the war zone continue to need practical support, while we may also need to prepare for more drastic measures to get them out of the country. Whatever help you can give will encourage brothers and sisters in Syria and assure them that they have not been forgotten by their wider Christian family."

In a more in depth editorial Barnabas Fund this week highlighted the fact that tens of thousands of Syrians have fled to neighbouring Lebanon, but as the conflict between supporters and opponents of President Assad spills over that border, alternative places of refuge are being sought.

The charity said hundreds of Christian families have gone to Greece, putting themselves into the hands of human traffickers and enduring treacherous journeys to get there via Turkey. All borders into Turkey are now said to be controlled by the Free Syrian Army, who do not permit Christians to cross.

Some Christian refugees have almost died en route to Greece. One 30-year-old man was transported along with 22 other people in an inflatable boat designed for only six to eight people. It almost collapsed and sank twice.

Another Christian man, aged 27, ran into a sewerage piping system filled with waste in a bid to escape the Turkish police, who subsequently caught and beat him. He eventually made it to Greece, on a dangerous boat trip during which the inadequate vessel capsized. In Greece, he has been beaten up by a group of attackers who are believed to belong to a political party that is extremely hostile to foreigners and immigrants.

Some of the Christian refugees have sold all their possessions to pay the traffickers. Others who cannot afford the fee are attempting to walk, such is their determination to escape Syria.

Barnabas Fund concluded: "The plight of 2.3 million Christians in Syrias can no longer be ignored by the international community. And as the US, UK and other Western powers increase their support for the Syrian opposition, it is imperative that they consider the implications of this for the country's Christians."

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