Caught in the middle: Christians suffer amid Syria's civil war

In April, two Syriac Orthodox bishops were kidnapped by gunmen. They were later released unharmed. Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need has accused al Qaeda-linked groups of engaging in the “ethnic cleansing” of Christians.

“If you’re a Christian, you’re worried,” said Dr Nadim Shehadi, an associate at London-based think tank Chatham House. “The Christians have maintained a neutrality which can be seen as being on the side of the regime or vice versa.”

He added that they had kept a much lower profile since Islamist extremists started to appear in the country.

Amjad Hadad is one of the few Christians to take up arms. The 37-year-old said Christian silence should not be interpreted as support for Assad.

“We are fighting beside our Sunni brothers, Alewites, Shiites , Jews and Druze, and all other sects and minorities against the Syrian regime,” said Hadad, the commander of a Christian batallion of the FSA. “It’s our duty.”