CLR Forum reader Anahid Ugurlayan kindly points us to an important joint subcommittee hearing yesterday at the US House of Representatives, Religious Minorities in Syria: Caught in the Middle. Co-sponsored by the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, the hearing heard from four witnesses, including USCIRF Commissioner Zuhdi Jasser. The hearing extensively addressed the plight of Syria’s Christians.
The whole hearing is worthwhile, but the testimony of the Hudson Institute’s Nina Shea is particularly useful. Shea concedes that “no religious community has been spared suffering” in Syria’s civil war. But “Syria’s ancient Christian minority” faces an existential threat:
Christians, however, are not simply caught in the middle, as collateral damage. They are the targets of a more focused shadow war, one that is taking place alongside the larger conflict between the Shiite-backed Baathist Assad regime and the largely Sunni rebel militias. Christians are the targets of an ethno-religious cleansing by Islamist militants and courts. In addition, they have lost the protection of the Assad government, making them easy prey for criminals and fighters, whose affiliations are not always clear.
Shea documents anti-Christian incidents, some of them quite harrowing. She recommends, among other things, that the US Government direct aid to institutions caring for Christian refugees (who often fear going to refugee camps); expedite immigration applications from Syrian Christians; and ensure that none of its assistance to the Syrian opposition finds its way into the hands of Islamist groups responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Christians.