Christians under threat in Syria as Islamist extremists gain influence


Loveday Morris
The Washington Post
October 4, 2013

When radical Islamists tore down a cross and hoisted a black flag above a church in the northern Syrian city of Raqqah last week, it underscored the increasingly hostile environment for the country’s Christians.

Although Syria is majority Sunni Muslim, it is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse countries in the Middle East, home to minorities including Christians, Druze and Shiite-offshoot Alawites and Ismailis. But the country’s conflict, now in its third year, is threatening that tapestry.

While the primary front in the war has pitted Sunni against Shiite, Christians are increasingly caught in the firing line. The perception that they support the government — which is in many cases true — has long made them a target for rebel groups. Now, Christians say radical Islamist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) , an affiliate of al-Qaeda, are determined to drive them from their homes.

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