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The Jaramana story – During the Iraq war, which officially ended for the United States in 2012, I worked with our Jordanian partners to assist some of the tens of thousands of Christians who were forced to flee Iraq. Christians fled Iraq because they were under attack and unarmed. Not too many Americans are aware that because the United States saw Muslim militias (including those of the Kurds) as useful, Muslims were allowed to keep their weapons; however, when the Iraqi army was disbanded and disarmed, so was the Christian population.
The Bush administration came to the conclusion that allowing Christians to have guns in Iraq would promote the idea that the United States was on a “Christian crusade.” In the end, the only unarmed group in Iraq was the Christians. Those Christians, who could afford to, fled to other nations to escape the kidnappings, property thefts, rapes and killings.
Of those who fled Iraq, very few were allowed into the United States. In fact, in 2007 the small village of Sodertalje, Sweden, took in twice as many Iraqi Christian refugees as the whole United States did. For every one Christian Iraqi who was actually allowed to come to the United States, at least 10 Muslim Iraqis were given green cards. The Bush administration feared giving the impression that Iraqi Christians were being favored, and therefore they were placed last in line, behind Muslims, for entry into the United States.
With few places to go, most Christians who fled Iraq were forced to go to the last seemingly safe place for Christians in the Middle East, and that was Syria. Christians were the largest group in Jaramana, Syria, even before the first Iraqi Christians showed up seeking refuge. During the Iraq war, the city of Jaramana, which lies just southeast of Damascus, grew quickly. More than 100,000 Iraqi Christians fled to the safety of Jaramana and started new lives. It was in Jaramana and cities like it that Christians found the stability and safety they lacked in Iraq.
That feeling of stability and safety began to vanish with the Sunni uprising in Homs Province funded by the Qatar and Saudi governments. There were no “spontaneous” demonstrations for democracy in Syria. The Financial Times reported that Qatar had funded the Syrian rebellion by “as much as $3 billion” over the first two years of the civil war, but in May 2013 reported that Saudi Arabia was becoming a larger provider of arms to the rebels. Qatar, at one point, was paying a bounty of $50,000 to anyone defecting from the secular government.
Jaramana remained outside of most of the violence until 2012. This city of more than 650,000 is mostly Christian, but other religious minorities, such as the Druze, live there as well. There is virtually no native Sunni Muslim presence to cause upheaval.
However, when the Qatar mercenaries, who were paid cash in U.S. dollars, failed to topple Assad in the first 12 months of the uprising, they began to fade away. They were replaced by Christian-hating jihadists of the al-Qaida variety, such as the Al-Nusrah Front, which is now the dominant “rebel” group.
The first Jaramana car bomb attack I am aware of occurred on Aug. 27, 2012, killing 27 people who were attending a funeral. There were more to come. On Oct. 29 of the same year, 10 were killed in the car bombing of a market area, and on Nov. 28, four explosions (two car bombs and two smaller bombs) killed 47 more.
So far in 2013, the two worst attacks on Jaramana have come in July and August. On July 25, a car bomb attack killed 10 residents. The last attacks came on Aug. 6, with 28 more killed and dozens injured. In the last attack, three children died. There are no military targets in Jaramana, but the jihadist “rebels” supported by President Obama claim Christians back the Assad government; therefore, killing Christian civilians including children is the will of Allah. Fatwas approve both robbery and rape. No amount of butchery by the “rebels” seems to dissuade Obama from supporting them.
This time, the Iraqi Christians who fled Islamic oppression in their home country have no place in which to escape. Syria was the last of the Middle East nations with a secular government that was functional. Egypt and Lebanon are no longer stable, and the United States only encourages Muslim immigrants, not Christians from the Middle East. Syrian Christians, who have lived in Syria since the time of the great evangelist St. Paul, have no place to run, either. Christian enclaves such as Jaramana are where they must stand and fight for survival.
Because the majority religion in Syria is Muslim, the secular government allows the Christian community to operate its own civil court system to deal with family matters, including divorce. This separate system shielded the Christians in areas such as Homs Province, where radical Sunni imams had their mosques. It was in these radical mosques that Qatar and Saudi Arabia found their mercenaries for the original uprising against the secular government three years ago. Khalid Ibn al-Walid Mosque in Homs, the “birthplace” of the revolt against the secular government, was recently recaptured by Syrian troops.
Other Christian areas besides the city of Jaramana are under attack from the al-Qaida linked “rebels” supported by Qatar, Suadia Arabia, the United States and the European Union. One such area is Latakia, which the media continue to refer to as the place President Assad is from. While the majority in Latakia is Alawite like Assad, a large percentage of the population is Christian, as is most of the ancient center of the city of Aleppo. Officially, not including the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christian refugees, there are 2.5 million Christians in Syria.
I have personally appeared on Mike Huckabee’s radio show and a couple of others to discuss the Christians of Jaramana. But, by and large, the media are not interested in persecuted, raped or murdered Christians if the news offends Muslims in the United States. This attitude can only change if Christians constantly demand answers as to why our government is supporting radical jihadists in Syria, while targeting them with drones in Yemen.
All Christian leaders in America should be working to make their congregations and society as a whole aware of the atrocities against Christians in Syria. Individuals should contact their congressmen and senators asking that no more funds be given to the so-called “rebels” who want to enforce Islamic Shariah law on the Christian and secular population of Syria. Above all, prayer is needed for the protection of the Christians of Syria.