By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
BEIRUT, LEBANON (BosNewsLife)– Christians in Syria remained in the crossfire Sunday, November 18, as rebels captured up to 30 percent of the heavily Islamic nation, a leading Dutch legislator and investigator told BosNewsLife.
“It’s still a big question if the regime” of autocratic President Bashar Assad “will be defeated by the divided rebels,” warned parliamentarian Joël Voordewind of the Netherlands ChristianUnie (‘ChristianUnion’) party.
Amid the chaos, up to 50,000 mainly Christian refugees are without aid because they are afraid to register themselves with the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, added Voordewind, speaking from Lebanon.
The UNHCR said it registered 120,000 Syrians entering neighboring Lebanon, up from 17,000 in May,and warned there may be as many as 300,000 refugees by mid 2013.
Voordewind, who toured the Lebanese Bekaa Valley near Syria with aid group World Vision Lebanon, is concerned that many Syrians will not receive aid.
“The UNHCR is only helping registered refugees, but registration is a very sensitive issue
for minorities such as Christians. They fear the Lebanese government will reveal their identities to the Syrian regime which could endanger their family members,” he explained.
Voordewind therefore urged the Netherlands to allocate funds also to non -registered refugees, after the Dutch’ minister for Development Cooperation pledged nearly $13 million for UNHRC-aid to Syrian refugees.
“Those people urgently need food, clothing, blankets and heaters. The winter is on its way and it can be very cold here,” the Dutch parliamentarian said.
After meeting Syrian Christians and their church leadership as well as Muslims, Voordewind said he was shocked about the plight of refugee families. “I spoke with families where children still have nightmares about the bombs that exploded nearby. Children also miss their schools and toys.”
He stressed that many Christians now stay with Lebanese families in “cellars without heating or storage facilities” for which they have to pay a monthly rent of up to 400 dollars “though they have no or little income.”
News about their plight came amid international concerns that the war in Syria is spreading to Lebanon and Israel.
On Sunday, November 18, Israeli soldiers fired artillery into Syria in what the military said was in response to gunfire aimed at its troops in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.
There were no reported injuries on the Israeli side from the shootings, which occurred on Saturday, September 17, the third case this month of violence seen as a spillover of civil unrest in Syria that has also alarmed other neighbors such as Lebanon and Turkey.
Christians in Syria have expressed concerns about both rebels and Syrian government forces amid reports that radical Islamists seek more influence in the war-torn Middle East nation.
(With additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos and reporters from the region)