Syria ups the ante against protesters

By May 4, 2011

Syria (MNN) — Human rights groups say Syrian authorities arrested more
than 1,000 people in the latest sweep aimed at crushing the uprising against
President Bashar Assad.

Many dozens more are missing in the latest brutal crackdown
of the 6-week-old revolt. Tom Doyle with E3 Partners says it's not over yet. "They're going to flex their muscles even more to squelch any desire for
rebellion. They're going to try to get to the heart of it."

The calls for Assad's ouster spread
quickly across the nation of some 23 million. Blame for the upheaval is being laid on outside
groups who have come in to
take advantage of protests to stir up unrest and destabilize Syria.  

Christian leaders agree. Doyle explains, "We've gotten some SOS messages from
believers from Syria saying, ‘Pray for us. There's so much going on right now,
and believers have been targeted in some areas.'"

Their reports indicate that outsiders are
causing trouble in a hotbed. "I don't
think the government is officially doing that," says Doyle. "I think they have their hands
full with the protestors, but there are some radical groups. They sponsor Hezbollah
out of that country. I think we're seeing some of that around the country."

Regardless of who
is causing the trouble, it's the believers who bear the brunt. Syria is one of several Muslim countries in
which Christians have survived for centuries by accepting the second-class
status known in Islam as "dhimmi." In times of trouble, it builds exponentially for believers. Doyle notes, "There was a
real surge of oppression and persecution in Syria. One leader in Syria told us
that they had not seen this much persecution in their nation since the Ottoman
Empire."

Whether or not other events, like the
killing of Osama bin Laden, will add fuel to the fires of Syria is yet
unknown. Often, extremist Muslims consider
Christianity a Western religion. When
upset by Western nation politics, they will take out their ire on the
Christians.

Still, the Church is standing
strong. "Some of the leaders in the countries that are out there sharing Christ
and making a difference–they know that they've been targeted. There's a great camaraderie there in the
midst of that persecution. It's built the church stronger."

Doyle says their
partners know what they're risking as they live openly as followers of
Christ. Especially in turbulent times, "We need to pray for their safety. We need to
pray that their boldness continues, because during these times when there is so
much persecution, it's a time when people are much more open to the Gospel."

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