Syrian Christians request prayer in light of Turkey’s current military campaign in the northeast of their country.
Northeast Syria is home to a range of diverse ethnic and religious communities. The principal Kurdish region of Syria, it also hosts sizeable Syriac and Assyrian Christians communities. There are also Christian converts, especially among the Kurdish communities.
The stated objectives of Turkey’s military action in Syria are, firstly, to create a ‘safe-zone’ along the border by combatting Kurdish-led forces, and, secondly, to facilitate the repatriation of Syrian refugees from Turkey. The campaign does not seem to be motivated by a specific religious agenda, and there is little evidence to suggest that Christians are being specifically targeted. But Christians are deeply affected, along with other communities in the region. Shelling has led to multiple casualties, more than twenty villages have so far been seized and tens of thousands have fled the region.
Although not specifically a campaign against Christians, there are concerns Christian communities face particular vulnerabilities. Christian leaders are concerned that elements within Turkey’s forces and their Syrian opposition allies are pursuing Islamist agendas that are hostile not just to Kurds but also to any communities that are not Sunni Muslim. This fear would be compounded if the security of prisons holding extremists is compromised.They also fear that Turkey’s refugee repatriation plans, whereby Syrians who fled from other areas would be resettled in northeast Syria, constitute an intentional programme of ‘demographic engineering’ in the region, intended to boost the Arab Sunni presence to the detriment of Kurds and other communities such as Christians.
Syrian Christians request prayer that:
a. political and military leaders, of parties involved and in the wider international community, will act with restraint, wisdom and compassion
b. those bereaved or injured, together with all who have fled, will find comfort, healing, provision and hope
c. peace will be restored, human dignity respected and pluralism preserved and strengthened, in northeast Syria and the rest of the country, for the benefit of all ethnic and religious communities
d. Christian communities will not be intimidated but will find opportunity to be agents of reconciliation, healing, peace and hope
e. all who are intent on violence will know the Spirit’s conviction of sin and respond to the Father’s offer of new life through the Son.