The recent escalation of fighting in Syria and the spread of unrest to Homs, Aleppo ands Damascus, is putting the future of many ancient Christian communities in danger. The estimated 2.3 million Christians, who comprise around 10% of the population, have lived peacefully under the current government, which has encouraged good intercommunal relations between the diverse faiths. With support being given to the so-called Free Syrian Army by Saudi Arabia, there is concern that Christians will be targeted if the minority Shia Alawite regime falls.
Already some 80,000 Christians have been cleared from the homes in Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan in Homs province amid widescale destruction, which has now spread to Aleppo and Damascus, where there are large Christian communities. As the situation deteriorates the heads of churches have jointly called on their flocks to show love, reconciliation, forgiveness, cooperation and wisdom and to distance themselves from violence in all its aspects. Faced with a worsening situation they have urged their people to be patient, trust in God, prayer and fasting and to carry out acts of mercy towards the displaced and affected people.
The Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, Mar Ignatius Zakka I, is currently in Frankfurt recuperating from surgery, whilst many bishops and their flocks have been forced to leave in the face of considerable danger.