On Wednesday, September 11, John Kass of The Chicago Tribune wrote an article accusing President Barack Obama's administration of not showing enough interest in the plight of Syrian Christians who have been caught in the middle of the conflict between President Bashar Assad's government and the various rebel factions in their war-torn country.
According to Kass, "Their houses of worship have been burned by Islamist rebels. Their clergy have been kidnapped. Their people have been killed.
"And when radical Islamists take a village, the people say they are told they have three choices: renounce their faith, pay a tax or leave.
"They are the Christians of Syria. And they've become refugees in their own land.
"And if Assad's government falls, will the Christians be purged by Islamic fundamentalists, as happened after the fall of strong central governments recently in Egypt and Iraq?
"'In Washington, there is a very disturbing indifference toward the Christians of Syria,' said Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
"Our political leaders don't talk enough about them to make it an issue, and many of our American religious leaders find it inconvenient," she told me in an interview. "It's as if it is politically incorrect to talk of this problem. Orthodox Christians [are] being attacked by radical Islamists, and few of our leaders are talking about what's happening to them."
There have been several recent reports of Muslim rebels trying to force Christians in the village of Maaloula to convert to Islam at gun point. Witnesses have also reported that Christian churches have been vandalized and looted since the town was captured by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and a jihadist group called the al-Nusra Front.
According to a recent Daily Mail article, "One Maaloula resident said the rebels, many of whom had beards and shouted 'Allahu Akbar' (God is great), attacked Christian homes and churches shortly after moving into the village.
"'They shot and killed people. I heard gunshots and then I saw three bodies lying in the middle of a street in the old quarters of the village. Where is President Obama to see what has befallen us?'
"Another Christian resident said: 'I saw the militants grabbing five villagers and threatening them and saying, "Either you convert to Islam, or you will be beheaded".'
"Another said one church had been torched, and gunmen stormed into two other churches and robbed them."
On Tuesday, September 11, Jeremy Bowen of BBC News reported that the FSA has released a video promising not to involve the local Christians in their conflict with the Syrian government. However, their Muslim allies from the al-Nusra Front seem to have other ideas.
On Thursday, September 12, Jack Khoury of Haaretz reported that the FSA has said that looting in Maaloula was actually done by Assad's military forces to turn people against them, but evidence suggests that the al-Nusra Front is to blame.
According to Khoury, "In a bid to win Christian support, the rebels distributed a video clip showing a field commander urging his men not to harm the town's churches and monasteries. The Assad regime countered with pictures of the rebels shooting in the air and at various buildings in Maaloula, as well as of a local church damaged by mortar fire.
"The rebels accuse the regime of planning to exploit their presence in the town to damage Christian holy places, harm the local population and then blame the rebels for it. But Facebook posts by Maaloula residents reveal fear that members of Jabhat al-Nusra, a rebel militia affiliated with Al-Qaida, will be the ones to attack local Christians and/or loot their holy sites."
Although both sides in the conflict have promised to protect Christians, people in Maaloula have no idea if either side is telling the truth.
According to Khoury, "On one hand, they fear a rebel victory would turn Syria into an Al-Qaida state. The kidnapping of several Christian clerics, along with the dissemination of pictures of beheaded Christian clerics, have crystallized these fears. Yet on the other hand, they hear promises that pluralism and religious freedom will reign if and when the Assad regime falls.
"Uncertain whom to believe, Syria’s Christians feel caught between the hammer and the anvil."
Kass added that Shea said some of the rebels in Syria are carrying out a jihad campaign persecuting local Christians.
According to Kass, "'There is a purification campaign and jihadist elements among the rebels who see Christianity as blasphemy,' Shea told me. 'History has shown what happens to Christians in the Middle East during times of chaos. It happened during the Armenian genocide, and most recently in Iraq and Egypt, with churches burned to the ground.'"
Kass sees the same thing happening in Syria. He went on to suggest that the U.S. government is not doing enough to prevent violence against Syrian Christians.
According to Kass, "When a powerful nation like ours prepares for war, what is not in the news, what is not included in the rhetoric, can often be as telling as the large bold type in the official statements.
"And among the pro-war elites in Washington, the plight of the Syrian Christians, and their brethren throughout the Middle East, is often pointedly forgotten, and pointedly ignored."