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Parliamentary questions
15 October 2012
Question for written answer
to the Commission (Vice-President / High Representative)
Rule 117
Barbara Matera (PPE)

 Subject:  VP/HR — Persecution of Christian minority in Syria

The crisis in Syria has now been developing for over 18 months, sparking a number of debates in the realm of human rights. Recently, the issue of Christians in Syria, who comprise nearly 10 % of the country’s population, has risen to the forefront of discussion. While Christians have peacefully existed as members of Syrian society for hundreds of years — one of the oldest centres of Christian civilisation is located in the Syrian capital of Damascus — fears are growing within the Christian community as the violence worsens. Drawing analogy with similar militant situations in Iraq and Egypt, Syrian Christians have become apprehensive about a future that could include a loss of rights, persecution, and violent uprisings.

The situation for Christians in Syria is particularly unique due to the overarching religious battle between Alawite Muslims, the minority group that is associated with the al-Assad government, and the majority Sunni Muslims. Christians have experienced peace and religious freedom under the al-Assad government, so many are in favour of the current regime, but there are some groups that have chosen to side with the opposition or remain as mediators. Fears persist that, should the regime be overthrown, Christians will be persecuted by the opposition forces, which could be related to extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

A number of Christians have fled the country into neighbouring Lebanon. For example, the archbishop and several priests from the Melchite Greek Catholic Church fled Aleppo after the church offices were attacked this summer. More than 40 Christian families have fled to a single town in Lebanon as of 1 October 2012 because of the violence in Syria. Anti-Christian acts have been reported in Syria, but it is difficult to confirm the accuracy of reports due to the limitation on journalist activity in the country. While rebel forces have made explicit statements that they have no animosity towards Christians, and in fact have Christians as high ranking officials in the opposition party, it is impossible to ignore the reports of attacks.

I therefore ask the Vice-President / High Representative:
1. What action has the Vice-President / High Representative taken to ensure the protection of all religious groups, including Christians, in Syria?
2. Has the EU Delegation to Syria made any attempts to contact local Christian groups in order to assess the situation? Have they been able to obtain any information regarding the situation of Christians due to the difficulty of accurate reporting?
3. Does the EU intend to accept asylum requests from Christians who are being persecuted in Syria?
 OJ C 301 E, 17/10/2013
Last updated: 4 December 2012Legal notice