As President Obama talked tough on Syria, attacks on various Christian denominations there continued, including an assault by Al-Qaeda-linked rebels on the mountain Christian village of Maaloula, 40 miles north east of Damascus, on 5 September.
Some of its 2000 residents still speak a version of Aramaic, the language once spoken by Jesus. Around 80 residents took shelter in a convent, housing 13 nuns and 27 orphans, after an attack by the Jabhat al Nusra group.
According to Barnabas Fund, Syria used to be one of the easiest places in the Arab world to be a Christian. Until early 2011, Syria’s churches were large, catering for about 10 per cent of the population.
Christians were allowed to practise their faith without much interference. But all this has changed dramatically for the worse since hostilities between the government and opposition forces broke out.
Tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes by threats and violence, as mainly Christian areas have been invaded or attacked. The city of Homs was almost completely cleared of its Christian population. Houses have been ransacked, and believers kidnapped for ransom or gruesomely murdered. Many churches have been bombed.
Many are now fleeing to Lebanon or attempting to reach Europe to escape the dangers. Syrian Christian leaders are concerned that the church in their country may be wiped out altogether despite its long history, with one leader saying, ‘I am not very optimistic that our Christian community will survive’.