The “Arab Spring” will ultimately lead to the religious cleansing of Christian communities that date back to the time of Christ.

(Bloomberg News) — As the Arab Spring protests reach Damascus, Syrian Christians look warily at a future without a time-tested autocrat to protect them from religious intolerance.

In Egypt, sectarian violence, an intermittent problem in the past, flared anew since the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak in February. Twelve people were killed, hundreds injured and a church was torched last week in clashes between Copts and Muslims in Cairo. Christians and secular-leaning Muslims placed blame on Salafis, who advocate a return to the practices of Islam’s earliest years.

In Iraq, where elections followed the U.S.-led invasion, Christians also have come under attack. Hundreds of thousands have fled to Syria, where minority Alawites, a Shiite Muslim sect, have ruled over the Sunni Muslim majority since President Bashar al-Assad’s father took power in 1970. They also found havens in Jordan and Lebanon.

“History has proven to us that Christians have always had more secure lives, better treatment by people who may be looked on as dictators, like Saddam Hussein,” said Archbishop Cyril Aphrem Karim, who leads a U.S. branch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. In Syria, “our feeling is, if the regime falls, the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood will seize power and that is bad news for us.”

Under the Assad dynasty, Syrian Christians have swelled the ranks of a professional middle and upper class, enjoying secure lives while accounting for only one-tenth of the population.

Slogans were spotted during protests in Damascus that said “Christians to Beirut, Alawis to the grave,” according to Karim. . .

“I don’t feel the U.S. is really concerned by Christians in the Middle East,” Karim said. “They listen, they show interest, but we don’t see, especially from the State Department, tangible signs they are worried and want to do something for them. There is just not much sympathy.”

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