|(Photos courtesy E3Partners/8thirty8 Facebook)|
The whole region is a mess. Syria is in the middle of a regional proxy war, essentially a battle between the Shiites and the Sunnis. The Islamic Republic of Iran--the Shiites--back the Alawites. The Arab Sunnis of course back the Sunni-led Free Syrian Army. Middle East expert Tom Doyle with E3 Partners notes that the Free Syrian Army has been particularly vicious with Christians.
At least one Christian village near Damascus has been cleared out. Bodies are still in the streets. The recent chemical attack boasted headlines and horrific images of children being laid out; however, one of the worst atrocities didn't make a blip.
Doyle describes the situation of two weeks ago. "We heard from leaders in the region that they were crucifying Christians up north in Syria. We heard about it, we know people that have pictures of it. Pastors [are] crying out for help, frustrated that NONE of this is even making the national news (in the United States)."
And the question is: why not?
The United States has an Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Suzan Johnson Cook. Cook heads the Office of International Religious Freedom in the United States Department of State. It is her job to speak out on behalf of the religious minorities whose rights are being trampled. Yet, when asked to comment earlier this week on the situation in Syria, she declined.
Doyle isn't surprised. "I'm not sure that it's even functioning at this point. From what I hear, there's no media attention. If this is to be fair--to help when there is religious persecution, it should be that way for all people, whether Muslims, Christians, or Jews. But it seems like whenever it comes to the Christians, there's just silence."
Doyle goes on to say, "So far, we have this ambassador that has, in our opinion, not done anything. People are asking, ‘Where is the outcry? Where is the help?' We have government officials that are supposed to be up to speed on these things, helping to solve these problems, but we're hearing nothing."
It is that lackluster response that is also fueling another troubling trend. "There's certainly a lot of anti-American resentment in the Middle East, especially in Syria and the other nations where the refugees have gone, like Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon." The camps are one big arena for gang warfare that feeds off of disillusionment.. "It's a fight of who's the biggest, baddest, meanest terrorist group, and they're all vying for support within the camps."
As conditions worsen, hope wanes, says Doyle. "I think the Sunni Muslims that have fled felt like this was their chance to depose Assad. If America backed the Sunnis, which is led by the Free Syrian Army, then they had the chance to get back control of the country."
And yet, there are believers who are staying behind because they're needed. Because of their dedication, observes Doyle, "The Gospel is still going out. We're getting reports that people are responding to the Gospel. You can imagine how dangerous it is to be sharing Christ in the midst of this persecution, in the midst of this chaos and the worst humanitarian crisis in the last 20 years." What's more, he says, "Not once have I heard the Syrian leaders ask if this trial would pass. They just ask that they would remain bold and that God would teach them everything that they need to know in the midst of this difficult situation."