On Jan. 3, the Syriac National Council of Syria released an open letter to Christians in the United States and other Western countries to preserve Christianity in the Middle East. These Syrian Christians are deeply concerned about the impact of President Trump’s decision to remove US troops out of northeastern Syria. They say Turkey is threatening them daily “to invade, and kill us. They are calling us ‘infidels’.”
They point to the Turkish offensive in March of 2018 – wrongly named “Operation Olive Branch” – that drove both Kurds and Christians out of northeastern Syria as an example of what will happen to them.
“When Turkey was allowed to enter Afrin by the West, Turkey committed war crimes and ethnic cleansing against the religious minorities. All the Christians had to flee the area as Turkey’s jihadi troops conducted door to door searches to hunt the Christians down, to kill them and destroyed all of Afrin’s churches. They had to flee with nothing, and take refuge in the area that Turkey is now threatening to invade; north and east Syria,” the letter explains.
They cite the long view of history including their collective memory of the Ottoman Empire’s Caliphate and how Christians were treated as “second class citizens, (forced to pay) extortion taxes for being Christians, and (suffered) oppression, persecution, ethnic cleansing and genocide.” Ironically, these Christians are the descendants who suffered under the 1915 genocide during the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
They are warning what a US pullout would mean: “An abrupt American withdrawal would mean chaos and war throughout the region. We need time to develop alternative and lasting security arrangements that keep north and east Syria free to follow a model of democracy and freedom for all.”
The decision by President Trump on Dec. 19 surprised a number of people in the area and led to the resignation of US Defense Secretary James Mattis.
The letter ends with a practical call for a no-fly zone and a personal appeal to Christians in the US and Western countries:
“Without protection, Christians will be the first target of Turkey’s jihadist groups—just as we were in Afrin. We hope you can join us in our appeal to the International Coalition not to leave us unprotected and without guarantees. Without your support we fear that when Turkey invades we will see the end of Christianity in north and east Syria.”
“It is urgent to establish, as soon as possible, a no-fly zone for North East Syria to protect us against Turkey. Turkish air power overwhelmed the defenders of Afrin and even our brave Syriac Defense Forces cannot defend against this powerful NATO army.”
“It is urgent to stop the invasion and occupation of Syria. This would give us back hope and trust in our Christian sisters and brothers in the US and other Western countries. It is time to stand together for our Christian values. Together, we need to defend and preserve Christianity so it is not wiped out from the Middle East.”