Christians fear violent backlash from Syria uprising

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 12 2012 12:04 p.m. MDT

Orthodox faithful pray during a mass held at the Syrian Orthodox Church on Sunday, April 19, 2009 in Damascus, Syria to celebrate Easter according to the Orthodox calendar. Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter several weeks after observances by other Christian denominations. Christians pose around 12 percent of Syria's 20 million Sunni-majority inhabitants.(AP photo/ Bassem Tellawi).

Bassem Tellawi, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Our take: Much focus on the civil war Syria has focused on the political and Islamic sectarian divisions between loyalists and rebels. But the rising violence and recent fates of Christian in neighboring countries are prompting Syrian Christians to question whether to stay in in one of Christianity's early homelands or flee before possible upheavals begin.

(Reuters) In a walled churchyard in the old city of Damascus, a small group of Syrians debate whether the time has come to flee one of Christianity's ancient heartlands.

Members of a Christian community which stretches back 2,000 years, they worry that Syria's civil war can have no happy outcome and they face an upheaval that fellow believers have already suffered elsewhere in the Middle East.

"The future is full of fear," said one man who gave only his first name, Rami. "We hope our fate will not be that of the Christians of Iraq, but nothing is guaranteed. Now we meet in church rather than cafes because we're afraid of being bombed."

Rami's friends were gathered at the Evangelical Church in the ancient Bab Touma quarter of Damascus the city where Saint Paul began his mission to spread Christianity a few days before Pope Benedict is due to visit neighbouring Lebanon.

Read more about Christians in Syria on Reuters.

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