The strife caused by the civil war in Syria is affecting all people there, but an analyst for International Christian Concern fears that Christians have the most to lose.
In fact, ICC Middle East analyst Aidan Clay says Christians appear poised to lose no matter who wins in the civil war between jihadist rebels and an Islamic power structure belonging to President Bashar al-Assad.
Most recently, officials have confirmed that two Orthodox archbishops have been kidnapped, allegedly by Syrian rebels.
They are Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo Boulos Yazjic and Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo Yohanna Ibrahim. They reportedly were kidnapped while on a humanitarian mission to Aleppo.
Clay said the ICC is deeply concerned about their safety.
“Though people from every political, ethnic, and religious background are suffering and targeted in Syria’s civil war, Christians have found themselves in a very unique and frightening situation, having widely chosen not to take up arms or to openly support either the rebels or the regime,” Clay said.
“While many Christians have publicly denounced the brutality of President Assad and by no means support the regime, most Christians see little hope in an alternative government which, they fear, will be led by Islamists who will hinder or outright abolish the religious freedoms long experienced by Christian in Syria,” Clay said.
He said the latest kidnappings refresh fears for people.
“While this is not the first time church officials have been kidnapped, Archbishops Boulos Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim are the most senior church leaders abducted in Syria’s civil war to date,” Clay said.
Clay says this is not the first kidnapping carried out by the Syrian rebels.
“We remember the murder of Fadi Jamil Haddad, a Greek Orthodox priest, who had been killed outside of Damascus in September after trying to secure the release of a kidnapped victim,” Clay said.
“Armenian priest Michel Kayyal and Greek Orthodox priest Maher Mahfouz were also kidnapped by armed rebels in February,” Clay said. “Moreover, there have been several prominent Muslim clerics who have been abducted and killed in the conflict.”
Clay observes that there is a growing similarity between the civil war in Syria and the ongoing strife in Iraq.
“Syria’s war is increasingly mimicking the war in Iraq where some 200 Christians were kidnapped for ransom between 2003 and 2012, according to the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization,” Clay said.
Clay adds that failure to pay ransom has a heavy price.
“If the family is unable to pay ransom, the Christian is often killed,” Clay said.
A Syrian-born American who identifies himself only as “Zak” to protect relatives still living in Syria says although they’re in danger, his family would rather stay in Syria than emigrate to the U.S.
Zak said there are emotional and business roots that prevent Syrian Christians from leaving, including his family.
“Those that have some land property when they leave, they will never see it. Land that’s been in a family for generations lost,” he said.
In response to the kidnappings, a Russian Orthodox archbishop says that the state of the Christians in Syria rises to the level of a “humanitarian crisis.”
In a statement for the Lebanese television network MTV, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk is asking the Syrian government to intervene.
“We call on the Syrian authorities to do everything possible so that the kidnapped bishops are returned,” Hilarion said.
Clay said with the war dragging out, Syria’s Christian community will eventually follow in the footsteps of other Middle Eastern Christian enclaves.
“Many fear that if the war continues without resolution, Syrian Christians will follow the path of other ancient Christian communities throughout the Middle East such as Iraq where more than half the Christian population has fled and some 900 Christians have been killed following the outbreak of war in 2003,” Clay said.
“Syria appears to be following the same path. Already, most of the Christian community has reportedly fled Homs following the city’s takeover by rebel forces. ICC stands hand-in-hand with Christians in Syria and prays for the immediate release and safekeeping of the two bishops,” Clay said.
Christians have been the regular targets of the rebels since the beginning of the civil war.
WND reported in December that some analysts believe the civil war is a cover for killing Christians.
Although the rebels have denied involvement in the attacks on Christian neighborhoods, Open Doors believes the attacks are aimed at Christians, rather than supporters of Assad’s government.
Zak adds that the Syrian Christian community holds the U. S. partly responsible for the Syrian situation.
“The opinions of people there I speak to are typically directed towards us. For whatever the issue or our involvement, it’s always us at the bottom or center of it,” Zak said. “How can America do this? Why do they let this happen? Why are they sending them (the rebels) money and weapons?”