Department of Religious Studies hosting lecture on Syrian civil war and its impact on Christian community

Highlander Staff Reports

The Department of Religious Studies  is sponsoring the free presentation, “Syria: How the Civil War and Extremists have affected the Christian Community,’’ by Raymond Khoudary, M.D., on Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. in Lemmond Theater in Walsh Hall.

Khoudaryis a practicing allergist/immunologist in Plains, Pa., who was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria. He earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Aleppo, Faculty of Medicine in 1983, before receiving his clinical training in pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, New York, N.Y., and in allergy and immunology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, Pa.

Khoudary and his wife, Malak, have four children who attend local parochial schools. The native Syrian used to visit his homeland annually to visit with family and friends. He has not returned to Syria in about three years since the death of his father.  Khoudary will use these personal experiences to provide background and historical context about Syria so attendees can better understand the crisis – the impact the civil war and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has had on Syrian Christians, residents, and the overall country.

“It’s so sad you cannot describe it in one simple word or statement how you feel about the destruction of the country,’’ said . Khoudary, who has two brothers and a sister-in-law still living in Aleppo. “They’ve destroyed the infrastructure; they are kidnapping, beheading and crucifying people – particularly Christians because of their beliefs.”

“It is so sad for everyone in the country to go through this. Innocent people are in between the government and ISIS,’’ he added.

Khoudary’s wife is a native of Yacoubi, a segregated Christian town of about 5,000 people who has since been taken over by the extremists, according to Khoudary. The extremists also have seized the family orchard to use for its own purposes. In April,  Khoudary’s mother fled Syria for the safety of her son’s Back Mountain home.

“This is the story of many families,’’ said Khoudary. “They lost their homes, their land and their resources.’’

For many Syrians, it is becoming increasingly  difficult to survive as the national economy has turned into a “business of war,’’  Khoudary said. Due to the civil war, most of the country’s infrastructure has been destroyed making electrical scarce and obtaining water difficult. Due to inflation, the high level of unemployment and warring factions, residents are forced to purchase food and other basic necessities at outrageously high prices.

“In any religion there are extremists,’’ said Khoudary, whose family belongs to Gate of Heaven Church in Dallas, and St. Anthony’s Church in Wilkes-Barre. “They [ISIS] are the extremists of the extremists.’’