U.S. Sen. Blackburn's disapproval of the the U.S. withdrawal from northern Syria not only protects our Kurdish allies against ISIS but also 50,000 Christians living there. Many of their Armenian and Syrian Christian ancestors escaped a century ago from eastern Turkey, when the Turks ethnically cleansed that country of Christian minorities who had lived there since New Testament times.
I visited northern Syria in May 2017 as an economist and guest of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. I attended Protestant worship services in the main towns of Qamishli, Hasakeh and Malkia, which were largely undamaged, since the Kurds had protected them from the civil war.
I also went with the Protestant pastors to meet the Armenian Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic and Chaldean priests. They all declared that they would stay and serve their congregations. They were happy that the American special forces had arrived with weapons for the Kurds to assault Raqqa, the last bastion of ISIS, to the south of them.
Though the churches were undamaged, their population had doubled with relatives who escaped from ISIS conquests and battles in Aleppo and Homs. Fortunately northern Syria is a wheat-producing area and local food is plentiful.
Since the Turkish army attacked Syria, the Christians have nowhere to go. Already they have had innocent families wounded by Turkish artillery. They know the Kurdish militias cannot protect them and are releasing dangerous ISIS prisoners. The Russians are claiming that they will protect their Christian brothers in Syria, while the American forces reposition to defend only the oil wells. Two thousand years of Christian presence in Syria is now in danger.
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