Lost in the focus on the larger battle for Syria the nation-state is the fate of Syria as an historical site of religious pluralism, as the Sunni majority rebels turn not only on the Alawite dominated government, but in growing instances on all religious minorities, including Syria’s ancient Christian community.
Syria is the site of one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, a 2,0000-year-old tradition followed by an estimated 10 percent of the nation’s population. Increasingly under attack by jihadist-minded rebel factions, they may soon go the way of Iraqi Christians, who during the US occupation were chased out of the nation en masse.
Militant factions in rebel-held cities like Homs see Christian communities as easy targets for extortion, and the more Islamist blocs regularly target their churches, damaging many and destroying others.
Christians and other minorities have tried to form militias to protect their neighborhoods, but with the rebels awash in Western money and arms, they are simply out-manned and outgunned. As the fight continues to escalate, the groups are facing a tougher and tougher choice about whether to try to stay or to flee abroad.
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