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Thousands of Christians flee Syrian city...

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Thousands of Christians flee Syrian city amid “ultimatum” reports

Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Syria

Thousands of Christians have fled the besieged Syrian city of al-Qusair after reportedly being given an ultimatum to leave by an opposition military chief there, a threat echoed by the mosques.

Most of the western city’s Christian residents have left, and some of the mosques in al-Qusair are said to have given last week the thousand or so who remain a deadline to vacate. Two Christian leaders, who were among those fleeing the city, said that they heard the following message from the minarets: “Christians must leave al-Qusair within six days, ending Friday (8 June).” 

Damage-in-Qusayr-Syria_4X3.jpg
al-Qusair has been heavily damaged
in the fighting
CC BY 2.0 / FreedomHouse

An earlier ultimatum had allegedly been issued by a military chief of the armed opposition, Abdel Salam Harba. Local sources said that Islamic extremists within the opposition consider Christians “infidels”, confiscate their belongings and carry out mass executions.

Opponents of the government have denied ordering Christians out of al-Qusair. In a statement said to be from the rebel leadership in the city, issued on Monday (11 June), they said that they had “lived together with our beloved Christian brothers and sisters for decades, working together and living alongside one another”.

They added that most of the Christian families, along with Muslim families, had fled al-Qusair around two months ago owing to shelling by government militia.

The city is an extremely dangerous place for those who remain. A church minister, Atallah Ibrahim Bitar, was shot dead while reportedly taking food to people forced into hiding by a week-long bombardment.   

Al-Qusair, which is around 15 miles from another key battleground of Homs, has been the site of intense clashes between President Assad’s troops and opposition forces for months. Almost the entirety of the 50,000-60,000 Christian population of Homs has fled as a result of heavy fighting there.

Christians from al-Qusair have gone to nearby villages or to stay with relatives and friends in the capital, Damascus.

Whether or not they were ordered out, it is clear that they no longer felt safe in their homes, and like their counterparts in Homs, have been forced to flee as a result of the ongoing conflict.

On Tuesday (12 June), the UN’s head of peacekeeping said that Syria was in a state of civil war – the first time a UN official has used this term to describe the conflict.

Christians are particularly vulnerable in anti-government strongholds because they are assumed to be supporters of President Assad, having enjoyed considerable freedom under his regime.

Barnabas Fund has been helping Christians affected by the unrest in Syria since the start of the conflict. We are providing food, medicine and other essentials to the neediest families.

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  • Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give You thanks on this Easter Day for the living hope that You have given us and all Your people through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). We pray that the prospect of an enduring inheritance and future salvation will encourage our persecuted brothers and sisters to persevere in their faith, whatever may happen to them. We pray that we too may be sustained by this hope in the sufferings that we experience for the sake of Christ. We ask that the joy and resurrection power of the Lord will give strength and peace to persecuted believers today and every day. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 7 hours ago

  • Give thanks for the Christ-like responses of Christian leaders in CAR to the crisis that threatens them and their churches. They have distanced themselves from the anti-balaka militias, saying that these should not be labelled as Christian and that they hold no mandate from the churches. The leaders have also condemned the violence in the country, whatever its origin, and have called on Christians to pursue forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Churches are hiding, defending and caring for thousands of Muslims endangered by the anti-balaka, and one of CAR’s most senior church leaders has invited the president of the country’s Islamic community to move into his church compound. Pray that this powerful witness to the grace and love of Christ will help to bring peace to the shattered country. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Apr 2014 00:00

  • On this Good Friday, give thanks to God for the death of Christ and for His gift of eternal life. Praise Him too for the example of those Christians who have persevered in their faith at the risk of their lives and who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. Pray that their martyrdom will inspire their suffering brothers and sisters in Christ to endure whatever hardships befall them and will convince their persecutors of the truth and power of the Gospel. Pray too that their bereaved families and churches will not grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by the violence that has engulfed their country. Attacks by Islamist Séléka militants and retaliation from “anti-balaka” militias has generated a huge humanitarian crisis in which around two million people, many of them Christians, are in need of emergency assistance. Give thanks for the work of Barnabas partners who have been providing food rations to hundreds of displaced believers in the capital, Bangui, and distributing food, medicines, clothing and seeds to thousands in various regions. Pray that the aid will reach those who need it most, and that the Lord will comfort the relatives and friends of the thousands who have been killed in the fighting. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

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