Mark Durie reports on Martin Janssen's prayer walk in Amman, held on May 21 2013 for the two abducted Syrian clergy, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim. These Archbishops have been captured by Syrian rebels.
After the prayer walk Janssen had the opportunity to meet with Syrian Christian refugees, who told him how they came to flee their homes and villages. Their village was occupied by rebel forces, who proceeded to announce that they were now under an Islamic emirate, and were subject to sharia law.
The Christian residents were offered four choices:
- Renounce the ‘idolatry’ of Christianity and convert to Islam.
- Pay a heavy tribute to the Muslims for the privilege of keeping their heads and their Christian faith.
- Be killed.
- Flee for their lives, leaving all their belongings behind.
Some Christians were killed, some fled, some tried to pay the jizya and found it too heavy a burden to bear after the rebels kept increasing the amount they had to pay, and some were unable to flee or pay, so they converted to Islam to save themselves.
The scenario reported by Syrian refugees is a re-enactment of the historic fate of Christians across the Middle East. The Muslim historian Al-Tabari reported that when the Caliph ‘Umar conquered Syria, he gave the following command to his armies:
Summon the [conquered] people to Allah; those who respond unto your call, accept it [their conversion to Islam] from them, but those who refuse must pay the jizya out of humiliation and lowliness. If they refuse this, it is the sword without leniency.
Umar's command referenced Sura (chapter) 9 verse 29 of the Koran:
Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the jizya readily, being brought low.
This policy of subjugating Christians under the yoke of jizya taxation was also based upon the teaching of Muhammad.