Petition calls for action to help Syrian Christians

Members of clergy from different denominations pray and protest against a possible US military strike in Syria at the al-Zaytoun church in Damascus, Syria, in this September 7, 2013, photo(AP)

Western governments are being urged to take action to protect Syria's endangered Christian minority.

The call comes in a petition launched by Barnabas Fund, which warns that the survival of Syria's Christian community is at stake as the civil war rages on.  

Last week, Al-Qaeda-linked rebels seized control of the Christian village of Maaloula, where residents still use Aramaic, the ancient language spoken by Jesus. Barnabas Fund said the rebels had been attacking Christian homes and churches, and destroying Christian symbols.

Most of the 3,000 villagers have fled after six were taken captive and Christian residents threatened with beheading if they did not convert to Islam.

Barnabas Fund said Maaloula and other Christian communities were being deliberately targeted by Islamists among the opposition forces because of their faith.

It says around 600,000 Christians have fled the country and that those remaining have "run out of safe havens".

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said: "When we see the distressing footage from Syria on our television screens, we want to do something to help but feel incredibly powerless.

"Signing and circulating our petition is something you can do to make a difference. We must work together to make the plight of Syria's Christians known to those with the power to intervene and influence events."

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