- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2014

A Chaldean Catholic bishop serving in Syria says his fellow Christians are under constant siege and fearful of openly following their faith, akin to what’s occurring to believers in Iraq.

“We Christians live in fear in Syria,” Bishop Antoine Audo wrote in an opinion piece in the Sunday Telegraph. “Our faith is under mortal threat, in danger of being driven into extinction, the same pattern we have seen in neighboring Iraq.”

Churches often stand empty because Christians fear attack, he said.

“Aleppo. where I have been bishop for 25 years, is devastated,” he penned. “We have become accustomed to the daily dose of death and destruction, but living in such uncertainty and fear exhausts the body and the mind.”

Aleppo is home to 45 churches. But Syria — once considered the “last remaining strongholds for Christianity in the Middle East,” he said — has fallen to the radical element. Now, Christians are frequently too scared to even attend church, fearful of being bombed.

“I have to be careful walking around the city because of the risk of snipers and kidnappings,” he wrote, recalling how two priests were recently kidnapped while traveling from Aleppo to Damascus. “People fear for my safety and tell me to discard my bishop’s robes or hide away entirely.”

But he refuses, he said.

“I cannot work unless I am in the streets to understand the situation and the suffering of the people,” Mr. Audo wrote. “As I walk throughout the dust and the rubble, I am not afraid … I have faith in God’s protection, hope for our future, and my love of this country and [that] all its peoples will outlast this war.”