Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Not such a happy New Year for some

As we sit around our firesides wishing one another a happy New Year, spare a thought for Syria's Christians.

Thousands have fled the country, and are currently in neighbouring countries with very little to keep them alive. The situation of those still in Syria is even more dire, with Christians, their property and their churches the target of violent attack.

A senior church leader in Syria says they also face "inflation, poverty, growing of sectarian enmity, shortages of supplies of food and fuel, cold weather, revenge, kidnapping for big amount of ransom, risks of travelling, frequent internet cut off and many such things."

Barnabas Fund says while the  Christian population of Homs was once 50,000 to 60,000, just 80 Christians remain in a Christian neighbourhood of the old city. One by one they are dying because of severe hardship and lack of medicines. Rebel groups keep them there as human shields.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, director of Barnabas Fund, said in Aleppo some children suffering from malnutrition now had the distended stomachs more often seen in famine situations in Africa. He warned that rebel forces and Islamist extremists among them "want to see an end of the Christian presence in Syria."

A UN investigation concluded last week that the war in Syria is becoming increasingly sectarian, with minority groups, like Christians, in more danger than ever.

Last week a rebel group warned the Christian towns of Mharda and Sqilbiya to stop permitting Syrian government forces to take up positions there or face a merciless attack. The two towns used to have populations of tens of thousands, but most locals have already fled.

One Syrian rebel leader, Ahmad al-Baghdadi al-Hassani, speaking on Egyptian television, warned that Syria's Christians are "friends of the Zionists" and must choose between "Islam and death."

It is estimated that more than 45,000 have died in Syria since the fighting began.