Syria shares borders with Lebanon and Iraq, two countries that dissolved into sectarian strife without strong leadership. The regime has successfully convinced many of Syria’s Kurds and Christians that without the iron grip of a leader sympathetic to the threats posed to minorities, they might meet the same fate as their neighbors.
The vast majority of the tens of thousands of victims of Iraq’s violence since 2003 have been Muslim, but the small size of Iraq’s Christian minority and the nature of the attack have sent shock waves throughout the community.
… Father Douglas says his Chaldean Catholic parish in the working class neighborhood of New Baghdad has dwindled from 2,500 families in the 1990s to less than 300. His Muslim neighbors help protect the church, but almost every day, he says, more Christians decide to leave.
… “There is nothing left here – staying in this situation with all this threat is very difficult,” says Atheer Elias Medhat, a parishioner whose face was marked with shrapnel [from an Oct. 31 terrorist attack on a church]. “There isn’t a strong government that can imprint its authority on the country.”