"The Syrian authorities have been trying to force our [Christian] leaders to support Assad in public."

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad's security forces last week killed Husam al Murra, a Syrian Christian who had joined the Syrian Free Army, which is fighting to topple the regime in Damascus.

Assad is angry with the Christians in his country because most of them have refused to support his atrocities against the Syrian people.

He is also angry with them because many Christians have played a major role in relief work to help the victims of Assad's bloody crackdown on his opponents.

At the beginning of the uprising, Assad's government forced leaders of the Christian community in Syria to hold public events in support of the regime. The leaders were instructed to pledge their loyalty to Assad and condemn the opposition as a "bunch of terrorists backed by the Zionists and the US."

But as Assad's forces stepped up their massacres and repression of the people, most Christians began speaking out against the regime, especially on Facebook and other social media networking.

The killing of al Murra highlights the growing plight of Syria's Christian minority, who make up less than 10% of the population.

This is a minority that seems to be caught between the hammer and anvil: Assad is persecuting and killing Christians, and Christians fear that if Muslim extremists come to power, they anyhow will be forced to relocate to the US and Europe.

The killing of the young man shows that Assad does not distinguish between one opponent and another in Syria -- Muslims or Christians.

Al Murra is not the first Syrian Christian to be killed by Assad's security forces since the beginning of the popular uprising nearly a year ago.

In recent weeks, several other Christian men have been shot and killed in different parts of the country. One of the victims was a priest from the city of Hama, who was killed while trying to provide humanitarian and medical aid to people injured by Syrian army gunfire.

According to a Christian lawyer in Damascus, Assad's security forces have also begun targeting churches, monasteries and schools under the pretext that they were being used as hideouts for "armed gangs."

Many Christians have stopped going to Church on Sundays, and some Christian schools have been forced to shut down out of fear of being targeted by Assad loyalists.

According to Open Doors, an international ministry supporting persecuted Christians around the world, more than 80% of Christians have fled the city of Homs, where fighting is the worst.

An Italian priest who had been living in Syria for the past two decades was asked to leave the country after he voiced public support for the Syrian people's struggle for reform and democracy.

"Most Christians in Syria are against this murderous regime," said George Saba, a Christian teacher from Damascus who fled to Jordan three months ago. "The Syrian authorities have been trying to force our leaders to support Assad in public. No Christian could ever support such heinous crimes against women and children."

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