Christians in Syria mark bitter Christmas

Christians in Syria mark bitter Christmas

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Christians in Syria mark bitter Christmas

Syria’s Greek Orthodox leader, Patriarch Yuhanna X Yazigi, leads the last Sunday service before Christmas at the Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus. AFP photo

Christians in Syria will mark a bitter Christmas this year as churches and their followers in the country have had their share of the ongoing violence. The places of worship of approximately 2 million Christians in Syria have been the target of attacks in the clashes between the forces of President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels.

“The religious leaders in Syria have declared that the churches will not celebrate Christmas because of the ongoing violence in the country,” Jamil Diarbekirli, a 25-year-old Syrian, told the Hürriyet Daily News in an e-mail interview.

Diarbekirli, who was a law student in Aleppo before the civil war and had been arrested at the beginning of the incidents before being released after a short time, pointed out that sacred spaces had become targets of regime powers.

“When our churches were attacked, our Muslim friends helped us repair them. The Syrian people and the opposition are respectful to God’s house,” said Diarbekirli, adding that if the situation continued in this way, there would not be any living people, not only no Christians. The Western powers are in complete ignorance of “this horrible catastrophe,” said George Gawrieh, a Syrian dentist who recently fled from Hasekeh city of Syria and moved permanently to Istanbul. “The Christians were so worried at the beginning of the revolution because they already knew that whatever the results were in the end, they would pay a higher price than other people and other sects.”

Syrian Christians not to celebrate Christmas: SNC vice president

İpek Yezdani - ISTANBUL

George Sabra, vice president of the main Syrian opposition body, the Syrian National Coalition, has said Syrian Christians are not celebrating the Christmas holiday because they share the same problems as the rest of Syrian society and want to express their sadness about the situation in their country.

Sabra, a Christian Syrian himself, told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview Dec. 24 that Christian Syrians regret receiving congratulatory messages for Christmas this year. “Every day we have more than 200 people being killed by the assaults of the regime. So how can we celebrate Christmas in this kind of environment?”

Sabra said due to the situation in Syria, some Christians have been leaving the country. “The majority of the people in Aleppo and Homs have left. Just from my own relatives, four families including my brother and sister have left Syria.”

According to Sabra, the majority of Christian Syrians were not supportive of the regime in Syria. “However, they are afraid of the regime like all the other people in Syria. In reality, they are part of the dream that all the Syrian people share,” Sabra said.