By Dorian Jones
ISTANBUL — The growing presence of fighters from radical Islamic groups battling the Syrian regime is increasing pressure on Syria’s ancient Assyrian Christians, many of whom are fleeing to neighboring Turkey.
At the Mort Smuni Church in the Turkish city of Mardin near the Syrian border, the service of St. John the Baptist is part of Advent, when an individual saint is celebrated every Sunday in the run-up to Christmas.
The members of the small Assyrian Christian community gathered for services are joined by fellow Assyrians who have fled from Syria, just a couple hours drive down the road.
After the services, Father Gabriel meets with church community elders to discuss how to assist the growing numbers of refugees.
Currently, they are supporting over a hundred families. He says the rise of Islamic groups fighting the Syrian regime is forcing many Christians to flee.