Despite heroic stories of the protection given by members of Syria’s Sunni majority to Christian shopkeepers, Christian refugees are fleeing into northern Lebanon as fast as Iraq’s three million refugees are pouring from Syria back into Iraq. Indeed, one of the reasons that Russia has refused to abandon President Assad is its feeling of responsibility for Syria’s Orthodox Christian community.
Meanwhile some 90 per cent of the Christians of Homs are said to have fled to Jordan recently, persecuted by a group claiming to belong to Al Qaeda. And among the four members of President Assad’s inner circle killed by the Free Syrian Army on 17 July was General Daoud Rajiha, Syria’s Eastern Orthodox defence minister. The papal nuncio, Archbishop Mario Zenari, described the conflict as “dragging the country towards, destruction, towards unspeakable suffering and death”.
Some of the rebels today angrily accuse Syria’s Christians of collaborating with the regime but a fair number of Christians have supported the rebellion which began as a mere protest movement against a still popular President Assad in March 2011.
It is a far cry from his taking of power 12 years ago…