Syria - (Asia)

Information about Syria

185180 square kilometres
Sunni Muslim 74%, Alawite, Druze, and other Muslim sects 16%, Christian (various sects) 10%, Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo)
Christian (%)
Protestant (%)
Reformed (%)

The state of Syria was not established in its present form until 1946, but it is a land which has been inhabited since ancient times by people of various cultures and religions. Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of habitation dating back to about 5000 B.C., and Damascus is probably the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city. Greater Syria, a land area incorporating Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and present-day Syria, was the site of much conflict and conquest throughout its whole history.
Ancient Syria has been successively ruled by the Egyptians, Babylonians, Hittites, Chaldeans, and Persians. It became part of Alexander the Great’s empire in 333 B.C., when one of Alexander’s generals founded the city of Antioch as its capital. Struggles between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies of Egypt followed until 64 B.C., when Syria became a province of the Roman Empire. Following the decline and collapse of the Romans and the division of the empire in the 4th century A.D., Syria became a Byzantine province and remained so for almost two and a half centuries.
In 636 A.D. Syria was again conquered, this time by the Arabs, and became part of the fast-growing Islamic empire. By the end of the 11th century, the first wave of European Crusaders had arrived in the region and incorporated part of Syria into their Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem. The last Crusaders were defeated by Salah al-Din (Saladin), who took over Syria and Jerusalem at the end of the 12th century.
Syria was then ruled by the Mamelukes and, after 1516, became part of the Ottoman Empire, which continued until the beginning of the First World War. At that time, an alliance between Britain, France, and the Arab people resulted in the expulsion of the Turks from Syria. A French mandate over Syria was declared by the League of Nations in 1922. British troops arrived in the 1940s. When the French and the British left Syria in 1946, the country became both a republic and a charter member of the United Nations. Political instability followed, with one military coup after another. In 1963 the Ba’ath party came to power and the country began to stabilize. Another coup in 1970 brought to power the then Defense Minister Hafez al-Assad, who several times has been re-elected (99%, 98%) President of the Democratic Popular Socialist Republic of Syria.

Christian Churches:

Saul from Tarsus is said to have been converted on his way to Damascus. The apostle Thomas, according to tradition, evangelized the region on his way to India. The ancient church was present from its beginning in this part of the Orient. There are still eleven major Christian denominations in Syria, most of them finding their origin in the splits within Oriental Christendom, particularly in the 5th and 6th centuries. Islam in Greater Syria has usually granted privileges and religious freedom to the Christian churches. They have, in return, contributed significantly to the shaping of the national conscience and of the cultural, economic, and commercial development of the country, and continue to do so today.
Among the present-day Christian population of Syria, Greek-Orth (172,000) are the largest group, followed by Melkites (57,000), Jakobites (53,000), Syrian Cath (32,000), Armenian Cath (24,000), Chaldeans (18,000), Maronites (17,000), and Nestorians (12,000). All Prot combined are estimated at about 15,000. Prot mission work started in the early 19th century and was conducted by Ref American and British missionaries. Today the Presb denominations have their headquarters in Lebanon and “sit across the border” while they have congr mainly in Damascus, Aleppo, and Lattaquié.

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