Syria continues crackdown; calls refugees back

syriaframsoffreedomprotestfile1.jpgSyria (MNN) ― President Bashar al-Assad may be losing Syria.
His attempts to stamp out protests across the country of 23 million are like a game of “Whack-a-Mole.” Whenever security forces dealt with one center of rebellion, other towns rose up and authorities would have to fight for control there.

Dubbed the “Arab Spring,” the term covers the months since March of pro-democracy uprisings that swept the Middle East and North Africa. When Syria joined in, Assad’s forces moved quickly to silence the unrest.

The Syrian regime is allied to Shia Iran and Hezbollah; however, the nation’s population is 90% Sunni Arab, adding to fears that intense sectarian conflict, similar to that in Iraq, could arise in the country.

Greg Musselman, spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs Canada, says, “When you look at the situation that’s taking place in Syria, you can draw some parallels to what has gone on in Iraq. I think the consequences could be similar for the church,” which means that the risks of sectarian war are significant because of the possibility of regionalized conflict in Lebanon, Turkey, and across the borders with Israel.

As the crackdown spreads, Musselman adds that “there’s slaughter going on there, and people are being killed. As a result, now you’ve got another refugee crisis.”

“With Turkey, they’re not always the best country for refugees to go into, but at least they’re recognizing what is going on,” says Musselman. “Of course, there’s difficulty between those two countries, as well, from a leadership standpoint.”

By Tuesday, there were nearly 9000 Syrians in Turkish camps. “One of the countries of destination, because of proximity, was Syria,” Musselman explains. For some of these, it’s the repetition of their worst fears. “So you have the Assyrian and the Chaldean Christians that left Iraq, and now they’re in a situation where they’re having to leave again.”

As time has passed, however, rather than dying down, the opposite effect emerged. The more brutal the regime’s response, the louder the cries from his people for change.

Syrian Christians, Musselman notes, have been keeping a very low-key approach both politically and religiously. “There’s a lot of fear that the Christians will be attacked. They HAVE been attacked, and they have been killed, in some cases, and their churches burnt down. So when the violence begins to spin out of control, the Christians become a target.”

The concerns of the believers are valid because they’ve already watch a pattern reveal itself once. Musselman says, “What happened in Iraq is that when you have a change in regime and sectarian violence taking place between the Muslims, the Christians become easy targets.”

However, the mass movement of people also means new opportunities, says Mussleman. “People that have been locked under Islam and have not had an opportunity to respond to Christ are going to places like Turkey (we’re in Istanbul). Some have come to Christ as a result of being out of their countries.”

Ask God to embolden, comfort and encourage all Syria’s Christians with His presence. Pray that followers of Christ in Syria will be a strong witness to their family, friends, neighbors and their oppressors, seeing the current unrest as an opportunity to evangelize. “We have to believe that the Lord is shaking the nations in many ways. As hard as it is to see people suffering, for the eternal perspective, people are coming to know Christ.”