The crisis in Homs has increased fears that Islamists are gaining influence in the region in the power vacuum left by the overthrow of other Arab governments in the “Arab Spring.”
The comparisons with Iraq are also ominous. Anti-Christian violence in Iraq has helped drive the Christian population from 1.4 million in the late 1980s to less than 300,000 today.
In both Syria and Iraq the Church is being targeted for its perceived close links with regimes under attack from opposition parties and rebel groups.
The uprising in Syria started in March 2011 with protests advocating political reform. The uprising has become increasingly militarized. More than 8,000 people have been killed in the conflict in the past year, U.N. figures say.
Many in the opposition are from the country’s Sunni majority, while religious minorities continue to back President Bashar al-Assad. The exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has said it will not monopolize power in a new regime but will back a democratic state with equality for all citizens and respect for human rights.
On March 26, Syrian government forces shelled Homs and carried out arrest raids. A human rights group says that government forces appear to be preparing to retake rebel-held parts of the city, the Associated Press reported.
The government has accused insurgents of terrorism and international conspiracy, while the government itself faces accusations of torture and massacres of civilians.
The Christian community has suffered from terrorist attacks in other cities.
On March 18, a car bomb explosion targeted the Christian quarter of Aleppo, close to the Franciscan-run Church of St. Bonaventure. Aid to the Church in Need is helping families of the victims.
“The people we are helping are very afraid,” said Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, who is overseeing the aid program. “The Christians don’t know what their future will hold. They are afraid they will not get their homes back.”
The displaced people of Homs are desperate for food and shelter. Aid to the Church in Need has announced an urgent $100,000 aid package to relieve their needs.
Each family will receive $60 each month for basic food and lodging. Organizers of the assistance hope that they can return home by the summer.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Bishop Audo told Aid to the Church in Need that it is very important to help those in distress.
“Pray for us and let us work together to build peace in Syria,” he said.