Syria (MNN/ODM) — The targeting of Christians in war-torn Syria is increasing, according to sources with Open Doors.
A car bomb exploded in Jaramana, a suburb of Damascus, killing 11 people and injuring more than 60 people, according to an Open Doors source who explained about Monday's large bomb blast. According to contacts in the neighborhood, 10 Christians and one Muslim were killed in the explosion. The blast left 69 people–all Christians–wounded. Twenty are in critical condition.
The October 29 car bombing raised concerns that the effort to stamp out Christians is getting more overt because the area has no other political ties or buildings. With the collapse of a cease fire over the Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha, the question can be asked whether or not the incidents of the car bombing and the other attacks are related.
Open Doors Spokesman Jerry Dykstra says the answer is a resounding YES. "Certain Christian sections are being targeted. The number of Christians being targeted and kidnapped is growing–not only Aleppo, but Damascus and Homs. So that's cause for alarm and cause for prayer."
The Open Doors country coordinator for Syria says that two or three weeks ago, the violence took a dramatic uptick. "Bombs now are placed in Christian areas where there is no strategic or military target at all. We are deeply concerned about our brothers and sisters, and we call all churches and all Christians to continue praying for this dangerous situation for Christians."
Meanwhile, there are increasing reports of Syrian Christians caught while fleeing to the Lebanese border. Many of these believers are being kidnapped and sometimes murdered. There are news reports indicating that some of these Syrians are being attacked by "armed gangs" taking advantage of the chaos of the war.
Why Christians? Dykstra explains: "More and more Muslim extremists are participating in the rebel army, and their goal is to make Syria a Sharia country. So, that's the main reason they're being targeted: they [Muslim extremists] want Christians to leave, like in many of these other surrounding Middle East countries."
A believer from Damascus reports that last Sunday, a car bomb was found in a Christian neighborhood in the old part of the city. The car was parked next to two churches–a Maronite and Latin Church. The two churches were warned, and church officials instructed all their parishioners to go home in case the bomb exploded.
Authorities were successful in disabling the bomb.
Last week, Open Doors received a report from a believer in Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, that about 100 insurgents infiltrated a main street in a Christian area of the city. Aleppo is one of the hot spots in the 21-month civil war between rebels and the Syrian government. According to the report, the Syrian army quickly surrounded the insurgents and drove them out.
An Open Doors contact in Aleppo reports that "the situation is not getting any better, but we are hoping [it] will cool down." Dykstra says the good news–rare as it is in these kinds of situation–is that "Open Doors has been able to minister, to partner with [churches] and with some of these internally displaced people who fled Homs."
However, in a village in the Christian Valley, a region west of Homs and Hama, three Christian men were kidnapped and one killed. "One of my contacts is stuck there, waiting to find a way back to Damascus. The roads are the worse now," shares one of the believers.
But there's a silver lining in this story, notes Dykstra. In the blackness of oppression, "The Church has become a beacon of light in the darkness. As some relief gets there and Bibles get there with our partners, we're finding out that Muslims are asking, ‘Why would you help us?' The Church tells them: ‘To Christ, there's no difference. Everyone needs Jesus."'
Moderate Muslims who are also trying to escape the carnage find that message irresistible. Syrian believers have issued an urgent plea for the days ahead. "Don't forget us. Be faithful in your prayers for us. Help us to reach out with boldness to the people in our areas. Pray for us, with winter coming, that we will have shelter and food."
The population of Christians throughout Syria has been decimated, either through militia attacks, the crossfire of the regime and the rebels, or through fleeing to safety. The Vatican Fides news agency reports that after a mass evacuation of Christians, the last one who stayed behind to tend a disabled son was killed this week in Homs. Those who remain are still acting as the hands and feet of Christ, but Dykstra says that as the violence grows uncontrollably, "They face such difficult questions: ‘Should I stay? Should I flee?' To other countries–Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, or whatever, those are not easy questions to answer."
A quandary, indeed.