Syria’s Christian minority is sizable, about 10 percent of the population, though some here say the share is actually lower these days. Though their sentiments are by no means monolithic — Christians are represented in the opposition, and loyalty to the government is often driven more by fear than fervor — as a group they help explain how President Bashar al-Assad has held onto segments of his constituency, in spite of a brutal crackdown aimed at crushing a popular uprising. For many Syrian Christians, Mr. Assad remains predictable in a region where unpredictability has driven many of their brethren from war-wrecked places like Iraq and Lebanon, and where many have felt threatened in post-revolutionary Egypt.
They fear that in the event the president falls, they might be subjected to reprisals at the hands of a conservative Sunni leadership for what it saw as Christian support of the Assad family. They worry that the struggle to dislodge Mr. Assad could turn into a civil war, unleashing sectarian bloodshed in a country where minorities, ethnic and religious, have found a way to co-exist for the most part.
The anxiety is so deep that many ignore the opposition’s counterpoint: The government has actually made those divisions worse as a way of dividing the country and ensuring the rule of the Assad family, which itself springs from a Muslim minority.