Syrian Christian refugees in US express their thanks at Christmastime for the liberation of East Aleppo by Syrian and Russian forces
The author is a licensed clinical psychologist and long-time human rights activist who lives and practices in New York City.
As you may know from earlier articles of mine (such as here and here), Syrian Christians account for only one half of one percent of all Syrians given asylum in the US--even though the US is a signatory to the UN convention on genocide; and though the US House of Representatives finally forced the Obama Administration to recognize in law that ISIS and al-Qaeda are waging genocide against these Syrian Christians just last year.
But that's as far as the departing Administration has gone. Notwithstanding the fact that these US-backed terrorists have forced over a million Syrian Christians to flee their ancestral homes and/or die the most gruesome of deaths over the past 5 years since the US first imported thousands of jihadists into Syria to start a phony "civil war" for the now-defeated goal of "regime change," the Obama Administration still continues to use every legal gimmick they can find to keep Christians from receiving asylum in America.
The reason is simple. Obama and Clinton don't want these Christians talking about the beheadings and crucifixions by the US-backed terrorists back home. And the few Syrian Christians who do receive asylum here are careful not to.
But oops! I mean a really BIG BIG OOPS!
It seems someone in the State Department forgot to tell a group of Syriac Orthodox Christian refugees in Paramus New Jersey that they are supposed to see the liberation of East Aleppo as a tragedy--not a Christmas Gift from God Almighty! As do these liberated Aleppo boys--jumping for joy in the streets!
This Christmas story of liberation comes to us from journalist and Middle-East political analyst, Paul Gadalla, talking to Syrian and Iraqi Christian refugees at St Mark's Syriac Orthodox Church in Teaneck, NJ, for Middle East Eye.
On Christmas morning [12/25/2016], a choir sung on the second floor of a wooden church in New Jersey. But instead of singing the usual Christmas carols, the women of the choir chanted in Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, believed to be the language spoken by Jesus Christ. At St. Mark’s Syriac Orthodox Cathedral here [in Teaneck NJ], families from Iraq and Syria come to celebrate and remember the tragedies that have beset their homelands.
“We pray that they and all other kidnapped and abducted may return to Aleppo so that our joy of its liberation is completed,” read Bishop Johb Kawak, the Syriac Orthodox Bishop of the Northeast Diocese of America, as he led the liturgy in Syriac, Arabic, and English.
Although most of the congregation lives in the United States, all of their chatter was about the region.
“We’re so excited about what’s happening in Aleppo,” said one parishioner after he wished the bishop a Merry Christmas. The church was abuzz with talks of the battle for Aleppo coming to a close. “Of course we’re happy for the victory [of Syrian and Russian forces] in Aleppo. And now we pray for the city’s kidnapped bishops to be released [by the US-backed terrorists],” said Bishop Kawak.
Christians from Iraq and Syria are divided among a number of denominations, and their traditions and how they celebrate Christmas can vary, but the main constant is their attachment to their church.
“Once any of them immigrate here, the first thing they do is find a church. From this they can establish connections,” said Martin Youmaran of the Chaldean Foundation, which helps recently immigrated Iraqi Christian families resettle in the US.
“Our Christmas traditions here mainly focus on replicating traditional foods and donning our traditional garb,” Youmaran added.
In recent years, the Iraqi and Syrian Christian diaspora has swelled since as many continue to flee ongoing violence in the region. They, along with other ethnic and religious minorities, have bore the brunt of the Islamic State group’s violent takeover of vast swathes of territory in both countries. Many were forced to leave overnight, and their houses and places of worship were seized or destroyed.
Despite being a vulnerable population that has suffered immensely in the regional conflict, Christians in the Middle East are finding it difficult to seek asylum in the US.
The most cynical obstacle placed in the path of Christian asylum seekers by the Obama Administration has been to treat the special religious tax (or "Jizya") that all Christians must pay or be beheaded if they're passing through ISIS or al-Qaeda territory as though these Christians were giving "material support to a terrorist entity" of their own free will. So those Christians who have paid the tax get sent back to Syria. Thus it's best for Syrian Christians who have had to pay the tax to keep from being killed to seek asylum in Europe or Canada instead.
Unable to return
Those few Christians who do receive asylum here, however, find it difficult to return home even after their home territory has been securely liberated by Syrian and Russian forces, as Paul explains:
Although ISIS is being pushed back and the war in Syria could be coming to a close, there is the growing recognition that returning is no easy option.
“At first I was wary of settling down in the US knowing it wouldn’t be easy but I lost everything I had in Aleppo. Now my kids are going to school here and are adapting. It would be tough to put them back in the Syrian system which is all in standard Arabic,” noted Samir.
“I’d love to return to Aleppo but who knows what will happen. I could be kidnapped or killed. Things won’t go back to normal there for another 10 to 15 years,” George said.
How dangerous the situation remains is evidenced by the fact that just last January Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II was nearly assassinated when a suicide bomber detonated his vest next to the Patriarch's car--killing 3 Syrian-government bodyguards assigned by Assad to protect him.
Patriarch Ignatius is shown below with Pope Francis. The Patriarch's blasted car is on the left.
Paul Gadalla's full story in Middle East Eye may be read here.
My own articles for Russia-Insider may be found by clicking on my byline at the top of the page.
My two latest Christmas articles on Syria, Russia, and Iran are: A Christian Christmas in Damascus. Thanks, Samta Assad! and A Christian Christmas in Snowy Iran.
A Christmas Eve article on Putin's Christianity is coming.