Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Syriadirect on Idlib's Fading Christian Community

From here.

Property seizures by hardline rebels stoke fears among Idlib province’s fading Christian community
By Ammar Hamou and Avery Edelman

Under the rule of Islamist rebels, Christian life has been largely relegated to the shadows: religious garments forbidden in the streets, crosses in public spaces removed or destroyed and church bells silenced.

These restrictions have also been accompanied by outbreaks of targeted sectarian violence—assassinations, abductions and attacks on religious institutions not unlike those seen in other minority communities that have fallen under extremist rule in Syria: Christian communities outside Idlib, as well as Druze and Shia Muslim communities around the country.

“Everything is done to make the [Christian] population feel unwelcome in their own land, and to push them to leave,” says Hélène Rey, a researcher focused on Christian communities in the Middle East, who works with the international human rights organization Christian Solidarity International (CSI).

Many did. By mid-2015, when a coalition of Islamist factions captured Idlib city and established full rebel control of the province, the majority of Idlib’s Christians—followers of various denominations including the Greek Orthodox, Latin, Armenian and Catholic churches—had already fled their homes. Some sought relative safety in government-held areas of the country; others joined the millions of Syrian refugees seeking asylum abroad.

A number of towns in the province have been entirely emptied of their former Christian inhabitants as a result.

And in Idlib city, just one or two Christian families are thought to remain from a population that once numbered in the thousands.

But in the collection of majority-Christian villages where Abu Elias used to live, a small Christian community—Rey estimates a few hundred people at most—has stayed behind, despite most residents having fled since 2011.


Read the rest here.

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