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Syrian Christians continue to request prayers for their country. In recent months, there have been increasing numbers of attacks on Christians that seem to be religiously motivated. There has been a spate of reported incidents involving the kidnapping of Christians. On 9 February two priests, Michel Kayyal (Armenian Catholic) and Maher Mahfouz (Greek Orthodox), were kidnapped when travelling by public bus between Damascus and Aleppo. The bus was stopped by armed men belonging to one of the groups fighting the government. The gunmen checked the identity documents of all passengers and only the two priests were taken. Negotiations for their release are on-going.

Other kidnappings have been reported, especially in al-Hasakah Province where some Christians have demonstrated publicly to protest against this alarming new trend.

There have been a number of assaults on Church buildings and other Christian property. Such attacks are often interpreted as warnings or threats to the Christian communities. One example occurred on 10 February when gunmen vandalised the historic church of Saint Maroun in Barad village, some 40 kilometres north of Aleppo.

Syrian Christian leaders continue to note that there are political and economic motivations in many of these attacks. However, they identify a rising tendency for religiously motivated attack, linking this to the increasing prevalence and influence of religiously extremist groups amidst the opposition movement.

Syrian Church leaders also note the severe economic challenges faced by Syrians, with ever-rising numbers of internally displaced persons and Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. Churches and Christian ministries remain active in helping to meet some of the overwhelming needs. Source: Middle East Concern