On Thursday, September 5, Napp Nazworth of The Christian Post reported that 62.5 percent of pastors who are members of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) are opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria's civil war.
According to Nazworth, the NAE represents 40 evangelical Christian denominations and over 45,000 local churches.
Nazworth added that NAE President Leith Anderson issued a statement discussing the results of the poll.
According to Nazworth, "Anderson does not take a definite position himself on the issue in his statement. Rather, he outlines several reasons that the issue is difficult and that evangelical pastors are in disagreement.
"On the one hand, he points out, there has been an international consensus against the use of chemical weapons, and not taking action now could encourage further use of those weapons in the future. On the other hand, whether a military strike against Syria would help or hurt the situation is unknown. It could make the situation worse by leading to a broader regional conflict.
"Anderson also expressed concerns about the Christians in the region. Persecution of Christians living in the Middle East has increased in recent years, he pointed out.
"'Christians in Syria have been victims during the past two years of civil war. We don't want to make their lives worse.'"
In an article published on Friday, September 6, Nazworth added that Rupen Das, director for community development and relief at the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development, agreed that a strike against Syria could make things worse for both Christians who live there and Muslims who don't conform to Sunni beliefs.
"'If the regime forces are weakened or temporarily off balance, there is every indication that the radical groups will use the opportunity to step up their attack on the Christian and Alawite communities,' Das said.
According to Wikipedia, Alawites are members of a mystical sect of Shia Islam. Alawites make up 12 percent of the Syrian population. Historically, they have been persecuted for their beliefs by Sunni Muslims. Syrian Christians have also been persecuted for years.
"... The rebel forces are a mix, Das says, of radicals, affiliated with al-Qaeda, moderate Muslims and secular forces. While the radicals are a minority among the rebels, they are also the best armed, best trained and most ruthless. The exact proportion of rebel forces that are radicals is difficult to judge, he explained, but some estimates put them between 10 and 40 percent," Nazworth said.
There have been several reports over the course of this year of Syrian rebels attacking both Christians and Shia Muslims and destroying their churches. Other experts agree with Das that any military intervention by the U.S. could make things worse for Christians in the Middle East.
Katherine Weber of The Christian Post reported that Geoff Tunnicliffe of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) sent a letter to the White House stating that the majority of Christian leaders in Syria "discourage military action in their country, saying such intervention would have a 'detrimental effect' on Christians in the region."
Evidence of current abuses make this outcome seem likely to Tunnicliffe and other experts.
According to Tunnicliffe, "... Christians have already been threatened in Syria by some of the opposition indicating that a post regime Syria will be Muslim and Christians will not be welcome."
Anderson did not make his own position on the poll results clear in his statement. However, Nazworth added that he did point out that it would be good to pray for political leaders in both the U.S. and Syria.
According to Nazworth, "'The Bible teaches us to pray for our leaders,' [Anderson] wrote. 'This is a week for extra prayers as our Congress and President decide what to do about Syria. And, let's add Syrian leaders to our prayer list. Our request is that God will give wisdom to make choices for a lasting peace in the region.'"