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Christians in Syria fear uncertain future

By Nic Robertson, CNN
updated 3:34 PM EDT, Thu September 20, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Christians make up about 10% of the diverse country
  • Some fear radical Islamists swelling ranks of rebels
  • Some Christians support the government, others the opposition

Damascus (CNN) -- As the 18-month-long Syrian conflict festers, the government and the opposition welcome and need Christian support.

But some Christians fear radical Islamists have been swelling rebel ranks.

They also fear the same fate as a number of Christians during the war in Iraq, where militants targeted them and spurred many to leave the country.

In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war: In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war:
Syrian civil war in photos
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Syrian civil war in photos Syrian civil war in photos
Explosions rock suburbs of Damascus
Tracey Shelton, a senior correspondent for Global Post, was embedded with a group of rebel fighters in Aleppo, Syria, last week when they were hit by a unexpected attack. These seven images from the video she was shooting show the instant of the explosion. The images and Shelton's description of the events were originally published on Global Post. From left, Issa Aiash, 30, his younger brother Ahmed, 17, and Sheihk Mamoud, 42, laugh and joke as they clean their post Saturday, September 8. Tracey Shelton, a senior correspondent for Global Post, was embedded with a group of rebel fighters in Aleppo, Syria, last week when they were hit by a unexpected attack. These seven images from the video she was shooting show the instant of the explosion. The images and Shelton's description of the events were originally published on Global Post. From left, Issa Aiash, 30, his younger brother Ahmed, 17, and Sheihk Mamoud, 42, laugh and joke as they clean their post Saturday, September 8.
Instant of impact in Aleppo
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Instant of impact in Aleppo Instant of impact in Aleppo
Syrian TV host: 'I felt like a murderer'

CNN's Nic Robertson recently spoke with Syrian Christians in the Damascus countryside town of Maaloula.

Libyan fighting in Syria symbolizes fears

Christians make up roughly 10% of the population. Syria is ruled by a government dominated by Alawites, whose faith is an offshoot of Shiism. The regime is opposed by an opposition with a large Sunni presence.

Some Christians support the government, others the opposition. Many want to know what an opposition government would mean for them and are apprehensive.

Antoinette Nassrallah, the Christian owner of a cafe, said she has seen government TV images depicting radical Muslim attacks on Christians. She said she has heard about such violence in Aleppo.

"We used to have a lot of tourists. But now, since last year, we never had any."

Dozens killed as Syrian warplanes hit gas station

Maria Saadeh, a newly elected parliament member, calls herself independent and says she's in the middle. She doesn't criticize President Bashar al-Assad but wants change through talk, not violence.

She ponders the government's fight against the opposition and the opposition's intentions. "We can't ask the government to stop if we have terrorism in our land."

Pelagia Sayaf, mother superior at a monastery, doesn't know whether a post-Assad era will be good or bad. But she says the president loves his people. She proudly displays a picture of him and his wife visiting the convent's orphans last year.

"The president," she said, "we know him."

Residents in Syria's capital 'stuck in the middle' as civil war closes in

CNN's Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

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