Remaining Armenians pray for peace at Orthodox Christmas in Damascus

By Reuters Staff
January 7, 2014

Armenian Orthodox Christians gather at their church of St Sarkis in Old Damascus for Christmas service January 6, 2014, in this handout photograph released by Syria’s national news agency SANA. A small congregation of Armenian Orthodox Christians prayed for peace at a Christmas service in Old Damascus on Monday and reflected on the hardships of living in an uneasy middle ground in Syria’s increasingly sectarian conflict. They lamented a low turnout compared to previous years – many have fled Syria and others were unable to get through a maze of checkpoints and traffic bottlenecks to reach the church of St. Sarkis for Armenian Christmas, celebrated on Jan. 6. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

A small congregation of Armenian Orthodox Christians prayed for peace at a Christmas service in Old Damascus on Monday and reflected on the hardships of living in an uneasy middle ground in Syria’s increasingly sectarian conflict.

They lamented a low turnout compared to previous years – many have fled Syria and others were unable to get through a maze of checkpoints and traffic bottlenecks to reach the church of St. Sarkis for Armenian Christmas, celebrated on January 6.

“You used to see this entire church courtyard full, but it’s been fewer and fewer people every season,” said one of the community organisers who, like all those interviewed for this article, asked to remain anonymous due to sensitivities.

“The trouble is many would have liked to come today but they couldn’t because of the traffic at checkpoints.”

Syria’s conflict has grown increasingly sectarian since it started as a peaceful uprising in March 2011 and then evolved into an armed rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad.

Majority Sunni Muslims dominate the uprising while minorities have for the most part stuck with the government, which is dominated by members of Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.

Syria’s Christians, around 10 percent, occupy an uneasy middle ground. Some Christians have fled to government-held territory, while others have stayed with the rebels. Some have joined the insurgency.

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