Christians have lived in Syria since the first century, A.D., and it is one of the few places where the language of Christ is still spoken by the local Christian population. Before the Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS, Christians comprised about 10% of the Syrian population. Most of the remaining Christians live in government-controlled territories, around Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Latakia, and the Hasakeh Governorate in north-eastern Syria. Currently, Christians form less than 8% of the population. Christians continue to be one of the most vulnerable and persecuted communities in Syria. As long as the conflict continues, they will continue to be persecuted.
The Syrian civil war has unleashed a slew of sectarian violence on the Christian community caught in the crossfire of conflict. Although the governing regime is a brutal dictatorship that has committed gross human rights violations, in some instances it has offered protection to minorities and maintained a secular and religiously plural state. Since the war, Christians have been victimized by both the regime and by Jihadist organizations, such as al-Nusra and ISIS, for their perceived opposition to each side. Within Syria, ISIS has killed and kidnapped Christians and destroyed or shuttered all Churches in its territories. An overwhelming majority of other opposition groups are also Islamist in nature and aim; and in many opposition-controlled areas, societal respect for Christianity has decreased. There are reports of various extremist individuals and groups attacking and kidnapping Christian laity and clergy, including the 2013 kidnapping of two Orthodox Archbishops. In response, many Christians try to maintain a low profile, adopting Muslim customs and avoiding Christian religious institutions. Others have fled Syria or sought refuge under Syria’s governing regime or Kurdish controlled areas, such as al-Hasakeh.