The Syrian rebel Kawa Khalil told me the recent story of the Holy Cross church.
Before the war, the church doubled as a school, attended by Muslims and Christians. After the destruction of Syria began, classrooms became homes for refugees.
On 27 October, the Holy Cross Armenian Orthodox Church was burned in Tal Abyad, Raqqa, Syria.
The attack was blamed on the Hamza Brigade of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Mr. Kawa Khalil reports that the day after the burning, al Qaeda came onto the streets blaming the arson on the FSA. He stated, however, that al Qaeda committed the crime.
When a similar attack occurred in nearby Raqqa, other Muslims came onto the streets to apologize to Christians, saying they are not like this. The crowd tried to right the cross but it was too heavy. A video of the Raqqa apology was posted online.
Despite their long history, some believe the days of Christians in Syria are fading. Many have fled to Turkey, possibly having already spent their final days in their homeland.
In the United States there is a tendency to view this as “Muslims vs. Christians,” yet on the scale of the troubles these are subtopics. Stories that center on the Christian suffering can make it sound like “another Christian village has fallen,” when the stories coming from Syria are “another village has fallen, and this one happens to be mostly Christian.”
The targeting of Christians is often not the result of religious differences.
Politically, some targeting stems from many Christians siding with Assad’s regime, fearing an inevitable pogrom. Assad nurtures Christian fears to gain their support.
But that hardly matters: if they side against Assad, his forces will also attack. The price of being a minority can be dammed if you do and dead if you don’t.
In the ultimate “you are with us or against us, ” there is no option to play Switzerland and pretend lofty neutrality as if that were a choice. Alpine geography and political circumstance afford lucky Switzerland the fantasy of being above it all, yet a desert village on key terrain and crucial routes has less fortunate geography and circumstance. The options are to run, surrender, or fight.
A Syrian Christian told me that he supports the revolution while other Christian members of his family support Assad. Pick your destiny. He moved to peaceful Turkey to resist through other means.
Mr. Khalil estimated there are 200 al Qaeda in Tal Abyad. He sees them walk around town wearing suicide belts in plain view, including among crowds. In no country has al Qaeda ever been known for civic responsibilities. AQ is always about “Me, me, me! Look at me on a Mission from God! Licensed to Kill!”
AQ will not allow people to smoke, yet impolitely wears suicide belts in the vegetable markets. Talk about open carry.