Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. –H.L. Mencken
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless,hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened,he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Acts 9:1-9 (ESV)
Historians put Paul’s conversion between 33 and 36 AD. The disciple Ananias was already living in Damascus when Paul was brought to the city after his encounter with Jesus on the road.
For the next 2,000 years Christians would continue to live in Syria. Even as Islam began to spread into the area, Christians remained there.
In 1994, the 29-year-old Scottish travel writer William Dalrymple, began an epic journey from Mount Athos in Greece around the Mediterranean Sea and to Egypt, retracing the steps of John Moschos, a 6th century Byzantine monk.
Dalrymple’s goal was to visit and understand the lives of the eastern Christians. He wrote of the journey in his book From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium.
While in Aleppo, Syria on September 2nd, 1994, Dalrymple visited the metropolitan bishop Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim. After discussing how Mar Gregorios’s family had ended up in Syria, Dalrymple asked, “And do you think the Christians are safe in Syria today?”
Here is Dalrymple’s account:
‘Christians are better off in Syria than anywhere else in the Middle East,’ said Mar Gregorios emphatically. ‘Other than Lebanon, this is the only country in the region where a Christian can really feel the equal of a Muslim–and Lebanon, of course, has many other problems. In Syria there is no enmity between Christian and Muslim. If Syria were not here, we would be finished. Really. It is a place of sanctuary, a haven for all the Christians: for the Nestorians and Chaldeans driven out of Iraq, the Syrian Orthodox and the Armenians driven out of Turkey, even some Palestinian Christians driven out of the Holy Land by the Israelis. Talk to people here: you will find that what I say is true.’
Dalrymple admitted that what the bishop had said “was indeed what I had been told ever since I had crossed the Syrian border.”
This was, of course, during the reign of Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, who, like his son, protected the Christians in Syria.
After the US invaded Iraq in 2003, various Islamic groups began to persecute Christians (whom Saddam Hussein had protected), and many of them fled to Syria as a safe haven.
Today, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) “rebels”, aka Al-Qaeda, are already beginning to ethnically cleanse Christians in Syria. There are countless horrifically graphic YouTube videos of the FSA brutally executing Christians. You may find them on your own if you desire, I won’t link to them.
Mar Gregorios, now archbishop, and bishop Boulos Yazigi were abducted by the FSA on April 22nd of this year and are still missing.
According to Voice of the Martyrs website, persecution.com, Syria is a restricted country because:
In 2012, militants engaged in Syria’s civil war displaced whole Christian neighborhoods in some regions, taking over homes and confiscating personal property. Prior to the war, traditional Christian minority groups had relative freedom within the larger Islamic society, but discrimination is rising, and our partners report that acts of violence during the war have specifically targeted Christians and Christian communities.
After more than two years of fighting by Al-Qaeda, who are funded and armed by the United States government’s CIA, over 100,000 people have been killed. Syria is a country of 22.5 million people. If the same percentage of people were killed in the US, the death toll would be 1.4 million people.
This morning there were reports that rebel fighters admitted to using the chemical weapons which they supposedly received from Saudi Arabia.
In light of all this, I urge my fellow Christians to oppose any US intervention in Syria. I’ve highlighted the suffering that our brothers and sisters are enduring, but we should be equally concerned with all Syrians who are suffering in the middle of this civil war.
In the end, do not listen to me, but rather to our Lord Jesus Christ himself:
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12 (ESV)