Northeastern Syria: Kurds Close Several Christian Schools

Archbishop Hindo to ACN: “The plan to oust Christians from the region is being executed.”

“For years I have been saying that the Kurds are trying to eliminate the Christian presence in this part of Syria,” the Syriac Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnam Hindo of Al Hasakah-Nisibi, which is located in the northeastern part of Syria, explained. In an interview with the pontifical foundation, he confirmed the closure of several Christian schools through the Democratic Federation of North Syria, a de facto autonomous region located in northern and northeastern Syria.

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Syriac Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnam Hindo celebrating Mass.
ACN has been supporting Syrian Christians during this time of persecution in their country.

The region is not officially recognised by the Syrian government and is governed by a coalition in which the “Democratic Union”, a Kurdish political party, holds the majority. “Since the beginning of the year, the local government has already taken possession of about one hundred state-run schools and introduced their own curriculum and textbooks. The Kurdish officials had assured us that they would not even look at the private schools, but they not only looked at them, they closed them.” The official reason given for the closure of several Christian schools in the cities of Qamishli, Al-Darbasiyah and Al-Malikiyah was that these institutions had refused to conform to the curriculum introduced by the local authorities. “They do not want us to instruct pupils in the liturgical language, Syriac, and they do not want us to teach history because they prefer to drum their own history into the heads of pupils.” Archbishop Hindo did not withhold his concerns about the likely closure of further Christian schools – there are six more in Al Hasakah alone – as well as about the extensive damage that the “Kurdish” curriculum, which differs from the official Syrian curriculum, might do to pupils. “I told a Kurdish official that this was penalising an entire generation because they will not have any access to higher levels of education. He answered me that they were even prepared to sacrifice six or seven generations to disseminate their ideology.”

What has happened is evidence of the planned “Kurdification” of the region. According to Archbishop Hino, this also includes the elimination of the local Christian presence. “We have been warning against this danger since at least 2015. They want to oust us Christians to strengthen their own presence. To date, Kurds make up only 20 per cent of the population, but, thanks to Western support, are disproportionately represented in the local government.” Through Aid to the Church in Need, the archbishop has directed an appeal to the international community and particularly to European states. “The closure of our schools is painful to us. The church has been in charge of these institutions since 1932 and we never thought that they would ever be closed. The West cannot keep silent. If you are truly Christian, you are obligated to bring everything that is happening out into the open and prevent further violations of our rights and further threats to our presence in this region.”

Prayer Points:

For strength and wisdom for Archbishop Jacques Behnam Hindo and his diocese.
That Christian schools that have been closed will be reopened.
For peace and understanding between Kurds and Christians in Syria.
That a Christian presence can be maintained in Syria.

Lord hear us.
Lord graciously hear us.

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