By George Whitten, BosNewsLife Senior Middle East Correspondent
JERUSALEM/DAMASCUS (BosNewsLife)- At least eight house churches in northern Syria have been closed down by the government as part of a crackdown on evangelical Christians in country, a Washington-based rights group said Tuesday, September 28.
International Christian Concern (ICC) said Syria’s government ordered their closure as authorities deemed them inappropriate. Many congregations in Syria can not afford to build a church and therefore hold worship services at homes of individual believers or purchase apartments to turn them into places of worship.
However in recent months Syria’s government has enforced legislation stating that congregations must only gather in buildings that resemble a church.
Syrian Christians say the government’s ‘legal’ excuse for closing churches is merely a cover-up for a wider government crackdown on evangelical Christian activity in Syria.
“Christians who are active in their faith know that they are watched very closely, and the government is waiting for an excuse to crack down on them”, ICC quoted an unidentified Syrian Christian as saying.
“The government is targeting all religious activities which are considered ‘extreme’ — from Muslim extremists all the way to Christians … It is generally believed that the government is getting reports from Orthodox and certain denominations as well as secret police and various Islamic congregations,” added the Christian, who apparently spoke anonymous due to security concerns.
Last week, Christian novelist Joel Rosenberg posted a letter from an Arab believer saying, “Our brethren and churches in Syria need urgent prayers. The government closed about eight evangelical churches in the last two weeks. All these churches are in North Syria, mainly in Lattakia, Tartous, Homs, and wadi Al-Nasara.”
Rosenberg warned “that some of the churches in Damascus and Aleppo know that their turn will come soon. They are closing some of the Baptist and Alliance churches. It is apparently by the approval of the High Counsel representative in Syria.”
ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, Aidan Clay, told BosNewsLife that the latest developments underscore a new era for evangelical Christians in Syria. “Christians in Syria, unlike some of their neighbors, have enjoyed relative freedom to practice their faith,” he said. “Yet, religious freedom in Syria is a delicate ideal, and Syrian evangelicals have walked a tightrope not to offend the government and lose their precious liberty to worship.”
He expressed concern that “Prejudices and false reports” targeting the Syrian evangelical community “by both Orthodox Christians and certain Muslim groups, if continued, will destroy that fragile balance of religious freedom so cherished by Syrian evangelicals.” The ICC said is has urged the Syrian government “to preserve Syria’s religiously tolerant society and protecting its religious minorities.”
This is a probabilty because evangelicals preach nothing good about other religions and they put Isreal first n foremost. This can not and should not be tolerated by any denomination of the Christian religion or any other religion!!! The Syrian government has every right to do what is right for the security of the Homeland!!! The Orthodox n Catholic religions do not have any problems to worry about cause they are true to their country!!!
Well said Joseph.
I am a Syrian Muslim and I do think the government should crack down on Muslim radicalism (Wahabis) and Christian fundamentalism (Pat Robertson bunch) as both represent a danger to our country. Syrian Muslims and Christians lived together for centuries and we do not need some fundamentals to teach us how to go about our lives.
It is understandable why both of you think the way you do, satan has blinded your eyes, so you cannot see the light of the Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians chapter 4:1-15).
You despise the Christians (both of you), because your religions help to keep you far from God;
by nature all people hate God, but as it is written “while we were yet sinners,” and “enemies” of God, “Christ died for the ungodly.”
You both should know, that it will not help you in the last day to blame people who claim to be evangelical (like Pat Robertson).
God will require only one thing, that you submit to Him, believing in The Lord Jesus Christ;
because there is only one Name, given “by which men must be saved.”
Leave your idols, your icons, and false gods, and deceitful teachers of lies, and read in God’s word of His love for all people, and believe Him, He deserves that from you, He is a good God, and does not deserve your hatred.
However, if you persist in your unbelief and infidelity until the end, you will be separated from Him for eternity, in torment and punishment, you will only have yourself to blame.