Treatment of Christians in Syria. [SYR2571]

The Christian population in Syria is estimated to be about 12% of the total [ Kurian G.T. ed. 1987, Encyclopedia of the Third World, New York: Facts on File: 1879-1882.]. While in the past Christians have been the targets of violence directed against them, the State is now officially secular and proselytizing is strictly forbidden [ United States of America, Department of State, 1989, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988, Washington: Government Printing Office: 1513; please find this document at your regional Documentation Centre.].

The ruling Ba'ath Party is generally secular in its outlook and it is believed that such secularism prevents blatant religious discrimination from becoming party policy [ United States of America, DOS, 1989: 1513.]. It has been pointed out however, that constitutional guarantees of religious tolerance do not necessarily correspond with the treatment of minority religions, and religious freedom is said to be "restricted" in practice [ Gastil R.D. et al. 1988, Freedom in the World: Political Rights and Civil Liberties 1987-88, New York: Freedom House: 391.].

Since 1960, it is estimated that anywhere between thirty thousand and three hundred thousand Christians have emigrated from Syria [ Kurian, 1987: 1882, indicates 30 000 Christian émigrés from 1960 onwards.
Also: Nyrop C. ed. 1979, Syria: A Country Study, Washington: The American University: 75, notes that 50% of the 600 000 Christian community of Syria has emigrated between 1958 and 1968.].