A recent car bomb in Syria targeting a church shows that Christians are still the main target of the Islamic State.
Last week, the bombing took place outside of an Orthodox Church in the Syrian city of Qamishli, where the Islamic State still poses an imminent threat to Christians.
According to reports, at least 12 people were injured following the car bomb detonation, and some even left in critical condition.
Following the attack, the Islamic State terror group took to social media to claim responsibility.
According to intercepted communications between the terrorist group, the Islamic State was targetting what they called a group of local “belligerent Christians.”
The Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Aphrem II, took to Twitter to condemn the bombing, tweeting that the “blast creates an atmosphere of anxiety and chaos, yet Christians should remain in their historical homeland.”
Background of Islamic State attacks on Christian
The car bombing marks the eleventh attack in eleven days, according to researcher Joan Garcia.
“According to our research, this attack is the eleventh in eleven days in Hasakah province and the fourth in a month in Qamishlo – the de facto capital of North-East Syria, which has for some years been secure from ISIS attacks,” Garcia wrote.
U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces declared victory over ISIS in March of this year, but SDF officials say the group still poses a threat to the local population.
According to Abdulkarim Omar, co-chair of foreign relations in the SDF-led administration in northeast Syria, the Islamic State “has a large number of sleeper cells that can wage deadly attacks against civilians in our area, particularly Christians and other minorities.”
Omar told VOA that the Islamic State is now more likely to execute attacks against Christians in areas under Syrian Democratic Forces control.
In order to avoid attacks, and to seek personal protection, Christians in Syria have vocally aligned with SDF, which is backed by the United States.
“No matter how stable the situation here gets, we always fear that [ISIS] and other terrorist groups are always prepared to attack us,” said a 42-year-old Christian man to VOA.
The man’s female relative was injured in the Qamishli attack, but he wanted to stay anonymous in fear of retribution and punishment from ISIS.
Another Christian in Qamishli tweeted out pictures of the bombing writing, “I hope for a day where I never hear of news like this again. Pray for my people please.”
Later, she shared photos of the aftermath writing: “Those who try to hurt us know little of suffering, and our people will not surrender our faith or our land to evildoers.”
The ISIS bombing in Qamishli is just the latest example of the persecution facing Christians in the Middle East.
One Christian activist, Malek Hanna, is calling on religious and political leaders all around the world to rally behind them.
“Religious and political leaders must come together and make the protection of our defenseless people their ultimate objective,” said Hanna.