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Persecution of Syrian Christians


A church dome seen through a broken window of the Sednaya Convent, which was damaged by artillery fire in Sednaya, north of Damascus, Syria. Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Syria's population of more than 22 million, say they are particularly vulnerable to the violence that has been sweeping the country since March 2011.

Christians in Syria along with other minorities are increasingly targeted by extremist groups.

Christians in Syria along with other minorities are increasingly targeted by extremist groups.

Recently in Raqqa, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, announced it will force Syrian Christians to convert to Islam, remain Christian and pay a tax, or face death. Christians who accept the tax in order to worship as Christians also face a ban on renovating and rebuilding churches and monasteries, many of which are in desperate need of repair after being bombed and shelled in the fighting. There are also bans on the public display of crosses and Christian symbols, and the ringing of bells. Moreover, the practice of the Christian faith must be confined within the walls of the remaining churches.



“These outrageous conditions,” said U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki, “violate universal human rights. Although ISIL claims it is fighting the regime, its oppression of and senseless violence against Syrians, including the moderate Syrian opposition, demonstrates that it is fighting for nothing except the imposition of its own brand of tyranny.”

While the Assad regime attempts to paint itself as a protector of Syria’s minorities, it has brutally cracked down on dissent from all segments of society. The regime has arrested Christian worshippers, human rights advocates, and peaceful dissidents like Akram al Bunni and President of the Assyrian Democratic Organization, Gabriel Moushe Gorieh; raided and confiscated church property; shelled Christian communities like Yabrud; and bombed dozens of churches, some simply for being located in opposition-held areas.

The Syrian people have a long history of tolerance and coexistence, but both the regime and ISIL are fueling sectarian strife to justify their brutality. The United States strongly condemns these abuses and urges all parties to protect and respect the rights of all Syrians, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or religion.
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