Christians Flee Iraq, Find Syria ‘Ruthless’

Radical Islam (as if there is any other type) continues to be deadly to anyone not willing to appease them. Continue to pray for Christians who are persecuted throughout the world.

Christians may be fleeing war-torn Iraq and the fighting Islamic factions there to Syria, but that nation also holds “ruthless” positions against Christianity which range from life in prison for talking about your beliefs to death for a Muslim who converts, according to a ministries working there.

“It’s better than Iraq, but it’s no bed of roses there for sure,” Jim Jacobson, president of Christian Freedom International, told WND. “The Christians (there) are stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

While Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Middle East nations are well-known for persecuting Christians, Syria’s actions are of a lower profile. But it is listed among those nations around the world that persecute Christians by everyone from Jacobson’s organization to the U.S. government.

In Syria, the constitution requires the president to be a Muslim and specifies that Islamic jurisprudence is a principal source of legislation. And sharing your Christian faith with someone – anyone – is discouraged as “posing a threat to the relations among religious groups” and carries a penalty of up to life in prison, he said.

“For Christians, one of the core tenets is the ability to share your faith, but in Syria that can lead to arrest (and) persecution,” Jacobson said. “We list Syria as one of the top … countries where Christians are facing real persecution.”

“Syria isn’t Saudi Arabia, but it’s one of the big untold stories out there,” he said. For those who want to convert from Islam to Christianity, “you’re disowned by your family, if the local mosque issues a death threat, no one is going to do anything about it, you’ll just end up dead. Nothing is done, no police action, that’s just understood.

“If you convert you’d better leave the country,” he said.

For those who already are Christian, the government allows them to practice their religion – but within harsh and restrictive guidelines. A Christian is not allowed to proselytize – ever. And churches who want to hold an extra service must get a government permit. Sermons are routinely monitored, as is church fundraising.

He said the issue for Iraqi Christians is the choice of being dead soon in Iraq, or taking your chance in Syria and so they are flooding into Syria. An Iraqi population of Christians estimated at 1.2 million before the war now is holding around 500,000, he said, with a good many traveling to Syria.

The status of Christianity in Syria reached the headlines recently as Pastor Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose-Driven Life,” visited there and was quoted by Syrian media describing it as a “moderate” nation.

Warren also said in a video that was posted briefly on the Internet that Syria is a “moderate” nation, although the video was pulled when he was asked about the comment.

According to SANA, the Syrian government news service, Warren said “many Americans don’t realize that both Christianity and Judaism are legal in Syria. In addition, the government provides free electricity and water to all churches; allows pastors to purchase a car tax-free (a tax break not given to Muslim imams); appoints pastors as Christian judges to handle Christian cases; and allows Christians to create their own civil law instead of having to follow Muslim law.”

Others, however, noted that his praise for Syria wasn’t proper.

“It’s a tragic, tragic, tragic situation. We’re very concerned about the future of Christians in the region. When people are choosing to go to Syria, which certainly is no friend of Christians at all, it’s a pretty bad situation,” said Jacobson

He said one project his organization has been developing is to encourage the United States and other nations to be willing to accept as refugees many of those fleeing Iraq, Syria and other Mideast nations.

“If you’re going to a place like Syria, it’s really because you’ve got no place to go,” he said.

He said the government in Syria uses a lot of “window dressing” such as formal recognitions of Easter and Christmas and the like, to give the impression of an open and tolerant atmosphere.

However, that’s common from a lot of the “brutal regimes” whose agendas include the destruction of Christians. For example, North Korea offers tours of “Christian” churches operating within its borders.

“The treatment on the ground is far different,” Jacobson said. “If you’re a Christian, you don’t talk about it. If you try to share your faith, distribute Christian literature, distribute a Bible – something any religion should be allowed to do – you’re going to get arrested and asked to leave the country. You can’t do that there.”

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