Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart is returning to Syria’s besieged city of Aleppo after spending some time in London urging the West to help stop Islamic State’s brutal campaign to eradicate the ancient Christian presence in his country. “I am responsible for the Christians,” he said. “I have to stay beside them and I will never leave them alone. A good shepherd never leaves his sheep.”
The Christian population in Syria continues to plummet amid widespread violence from both the ongoing political conflict and the spread of Islamic State (IS). “Many people have been killed, many people have been beheaded, many people have been persecuted, it is a terrible situation,” said the Archbishop. “If nothing is done, it is not impossible that all the Christians in Syria may be wiped out.”
Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, has been divided since 2012, with government forces controlling the western side and Islamist groups on the eastern side. Dr Zaidou al-Zoabi, the head of the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organisations, said that he saw at least 70,000 people on the run in the countryside south of the city.
“We saw only people who do not have even tents, any shelter, whatever,” he said. “People were asking for some food, sandwiches even … There is no medical support.”
In the city, too, conditions are dire. Water, electricity, oil and medicine are all in extreme shortage, said Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart. Those who can leave, flee.
Twelve-year-old Jack fled his home in Aleppo around nine months ago, along with his family. Now living in Jordan, his father recalls how the constant threat of death finally drove them from the city.
“More than 75 percent of my neighbours were Christians,” he said, “but the terrorists came through and identified each of us by our faith. After that, we were targets.”
Snipers aiming their guns on their houses forced them to always stay at the back of the house. And “two or three times a week, bombs would drop in our neighbourhood,” he said. The parents alternated in taking the children one by one to school so that if the worst should happen, there would still be one parent to look after the other children.
Barnabas Fund is actively working to urge Western governments to provide visas for Christians fleeing the horrific violence in Syria and Iraq. Please click on Operation Safe Havens to see how you can help.