Syria was an important area in the development of Christianity. Not only did the apostle Paul meet Christ on the road to Damascus, but Christians were first given that name in Antioch of Syria. A large and thriving Christian community has long been present in that country.
But today many Christians are caught in the civil war in Syria which grinds on and on, with hundreds of thousands already killed in turmoil that looks unending at this point. Of particular concern to many advocates of religious freedom is the fact that in addition to Islamic Shiite/Sunni sectarian violence, religious persecution against Christians has been getting steadily worse. Violence against Christians has been widespread and blamed on many parties, though the Islamic State (ISIS) group active in Iraq and Syria that has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in the past, is notable in having issued increasingly stronger threats against Christians and carrying out violence against them.
Christians are being actively persecuted and attacked in some areas. A Christian village near Damascus was ravaged, with bodies of its Christian inhabitants apparently left in the streets. Several sources have claimed that one Christian has been crucified in Raqaa in northern Syria, and it is certain that many others have been killed, though few of these events seem to be making it into the mainstream news media coverage. Many Christians are being forced to flee their homes, and those who do not may be in danger of losing their lives. One example that was reported widely was the assassination earlier this month of Jesuit priest Frans van der Lugt who had spent nearly five decades in Syria, which he loved and considered his own country.
There are a few spots of better news. In the north, Kurdish defense forces have been working to protect Syrian Christian communities, and a new Christian television channel has been started to help refugee Syrian children, but overall the situation is increasingly difficult for thousands of Syrian Christians and truly dire for many of them.