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Pastor Pleads for Protection and Prayers as Syrian Town Endures Attack

01-25-2018
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Per Ove Berg, a Norweigian pastor who travels frequently to the Middle East, joined CBN's Senior International Correspondent George Thomas to talk about the plight of Christians in Afrin, Syria.

A pastor in the Syrian city of Afrin is asking Christians to pray for his community following days of intense shelling and bombardment by Turkish troops and their allies.

"As the Good Shepherd Church in Afrin city, we demand urgent international protection for the believers in Afrin and the cease of this Turkish shelling," read a statement from the church's pastor, Valentine Hanan.

Afrin is an enclave in northern Syria, home to about 800,000 civilians, mostly Kurds.

Backed by Syrian anti-government forces, Turkey launched "Operation Olive Branch" on January 20 in Afrin mainly to oust Kurdish forces operating in the region. The offensive opened a new front in Syria's seven-year-old civil war.

Turkey views the main Syrian Kurdish fighters, known as Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG, as a national threat because of its alleged links to insurgents fighting in southeastern Turkey.

The YPG soldiers are the main US ally against ISIS in Syria, and played a key role in driving the Islamic extremists from much of the country.

The US has urged Turkey, a NATO ally, to "remove themselves" from the conflict.

Pastor Hanan says there are about 250 Christian families trapped in Afrin.

Christians and Yazidis living in Afrin told reporters they fear religious persecution by advancing Turkish and allied forces.

As Turkish planes continued shelling and bombarding Afrin, Pope Francis called on all sides to de-escalate tensions and not forget the plight of Christians and Yazidi communities in both Iraq and Syria.

"It is unacceptable that human beings be persecuted and killed because of their religious affiliation," the Pope said. "Every person has the right to freely profess his religious beliefs without constraints."

Pastor Valentine Hanan is urging Christians everywhere to pray.

"We as the church first ask God for protection and then ask for prayers and aid from our brothers."

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