Christians flee Syria in wake of targeted violence

2012-11-17 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Christians are among the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Syria in fear of militant extremists who are targeting minority ethnic and religious groups.

John Pontifex, who is head of press and information for Aid to the Church in Need, spoke with Vatican Radio about the growing violence against these minority groups, noting the attacks.

“There is a range of factors at work which are making it very difficult for minority groups,” he said. “As part of the mix of different militant groups at work in the region now, we are seeing a systematic assault on minority groups, and a lot of this is organized along ethnic lines, but particularly religious lines. And the Christians would seem to be in the line of fire.”

Pontifex gives the example of a Syrian priest whose body was found brutally mutilated on a Damascus road. The significance of an act of desecration against a religious person such as this one, he said, now “shows that there is a specific religious dimension to the violence.”

With Christians leaving Syria en masse, Pontifex said there is concern that Syria will go the way of Iraq, where the number of Christians declined from 1.4 million in 1987 to barely 200,000 today.

“If that happens in Syria,” he said, “where next for Christians across the region?”

Listen to Ann Schneible’s full interview with Aid to the Church in Need’s John Pontifex: