Caught between the larger Sunni-Shi’a battles for supremacy in Syria, Christians are forced to contemplate an uncertain future as Western powers debate action against the government of Bashar al-Assad.
Syrian Christians are faced with a difficult situation due to their country’s civil war. Many Christians support Assad out of fear that if he is overthrown and replaced by Islamists, they will face greater persecution, especially from al-Qaeda-linked Sunni Muslim rebel groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, who have attacked Christians. At the same time, Assad and his government are supported by Iran and its Lebanese terror proxy, Hezbollah, and have used chemical weapons against the Syrian people.
Christian villagers in Wadi al-Nassara (Valley of Christians) in western Syria, home to around 50,000 Christians, have formed “popular defense committees” with the blessing of the Syrian government, according to AFP.
These “popular defense committees” are militias that are armed and trained by the Syrian government to supplement the Syrian army and protect their own neighborhoods or villages from attacks by rebels. Many of these militias are comprised of Syrian minority groups such as the Christians, Druze and Alawites.
While Assad may have links to Iran and Hezbollah, his secular government, led by the minority Alawites, has proven to be friendlier towards Christians than other regional elements, compounding the uncertainty surrounding Syrian Christians’ future.