Christians in Syria fear uncertain future
updated 3:34 PM EDT, Thu September 20, 2012
- 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.
Members of the Free Syrian Army react as they fire a homemade rocket toward regime forces in Deir al-Zor on Sunday, June 16. Tensions in Syria flared in March 2011 during the onset of the Arab Spring, escalating into an ongoing civil war. View the most compelling images taken since the start of the conflict.
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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.
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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."
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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."
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CNN's Joe Sterling contributed to this report.
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