Syria continues crackdown; calls refugees back

By June 17, 2011

Syria (MNN) — President Bashar al-Assad may be losing Syria.

His attempts to stamp out
protests across the country of 23 million are like a game of "Whack-a-Mole." Whenever security forces dealt with one center of rebellion, other towns rose
up and authorities would have to fight for control there.

Dubbed the "Arab Spring," the
term covers the months since March of pro-democracy uprisings that swept the
Middle East and North Africa. When Syria
joined in, Assad's forces moved quickly to silence the unrest.

The Syrian regime is allied to
Shia Iran and Hezbollah; however, the nation's population is 90% Sunni
Arab, adding to fears that intense sectarian conflict, similar to that in Iraq,
could arise in the country.

Greg Musselman, spokesman for
Voice of the Martyrs Canada, says, "When you look at the situation that's taking
place in Syria, you can draw some parallels to what has gone on in Iraq. I think
the consequences could be similar for the church," which means that the risks of
sectarian war are significant because of the possibility of regionalized
conflict in Lebanon, Turkey, and across the borders with Israel. 

As the crackdown spreads, Musselman adds
that "there's slaughter going on there,
and people are being killed. As a result, now you've got another refugee

"With Turkey, they're not always the best country
for refugees to go into, but at least they're recognizing what is going on,"
says Musselman. "Of course, there's difficulty between those
two countries, as well, from a leadership standpoint."

By Tuesday, there were nearly 9000 Syrians in Turkish camps. "One of the countries of destination, because
of proximity, was Syria," Musselman explains. For
some of these, it's the repetition of their worst fears. "So you
have the Assyrian and the Chaldean Christians that left Iraq, and now they're
in a situation where they're having to leave again."

As time has passed, however, rather than dying down, the opposite effect emerged. The more brutal the regime's response, the
louder the cries from his people for change.  

Syrian Christians, Musselman notes, have been keeping a very low-key approach both
politically and religiously. "There's a lot of fear that the Christians will be
attacked. They HAVE been attacked, and they have been killed, in some cases,
and their churches burnt down. So when the violence begins to spin out of
control, the Christians become a target."

The concerns of the believers are
valid because they've already watch a pattern reveal itself once. Musselman says, "What happened in Iraq is that when you have a change in regime and
sectarian violence taking place between the Muslims, the Christians become easy

However, the mass movement of
people also means new opportunities, says Mussleman. "People that have been
locked under Islam and have not had an opportunity
to respond to Christ are going to places like Turkey (we're in Istanbul). Some
have come to Christ as a result of being out of their countries."

Ask God to embolden, comfort and
encourage all Syria's Christians with His presence. Pray that followers of Christ in
Syria will be a strong witness to their family, friends, neighbors and their
oppressors, seeing the current unrest as an opportunity to evangelize. "We
have to believe that the Lord is shaking the nations in many ways. As hard as
it is to see people suffering, for the eternal perspective, people are coming to
know Christ."

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