Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gruending On Christians In Syria

Former MP and Politics & Pulpit author takes a look at the dilemma facing Syrian Christians:

The Scottish writer William Dalrymple says that Syria has been a kind of oasis for Christians in the Middle East. But Syrian Christians are now faced with a painful choice. They can offer support to a brutal dictatorship that, generally, has protected them but has killed 5,000 of its citizens since calls for change and demonstrations began in the spring of 2011. Or Christians can participate in the opposition, which, if it topples the regime, may bring to power a Sunni-led government that could be ultra-conservative and anti-Christian.


The New York Times reports that there are Christians represented in the opposition to the regime, and that among those who support it “loyalty to the government is often driven more by fear than fervor.” The newspaper continues: “For many Syrian Christians, Mr. Assad remains predictable in a region where unpredictability has driven their brethren from war-racked places like Iraq and Lebanon, and where others have felt threatened in post-revolutionary Egypt.”

The Times story raises an unpleasant question. Does it take a strongman to protect the community (in this case the Christians) from the more dangerous, more intolerant currents in society? Clearly, the Maronite Catholic patriarch believes so. In September, Patriarch Bishara Boutros al-Rai urged Maronites to offer Assad another chance. Those comments prompted a rebuttal from Syrian Christians involved in the opposition. But the patriarch stood firm. “We do not stand by the regime, but we fear the transition that could follow,” he said. “We must defend the Christian community."

This strategic support of the regime may well have been overtaken by events. The killing has continued and the call for international action has grown louder. Former allies, including Turkey and Russia, have become critical. The Arab League has sent in a team of observers and imposed limited sanctions. Assad’s days appear to be numbered but Christians fear that they might suffer a savage backlash when the dynasty falls.

There's more well worth reading through the links.

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