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Friday, May 12, 2017

Christians and the Assad Government: The Untold Story Featured

Written by  Kathleen M. Hines
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Syrian girl brings Assad's image, with slogan "We're all With You", to Mass at her Greek Orthodox church Syrian girl brings Assad's image, with slogan "We're all With You", to Mass at her Greek Orthodox church

Amid the Syrian crisis we ought to remember a history that the American Mainstream Media would have us forget. Ironically, in the words of former President Barack Obama, “We know Assad has been protecting the Christians.”  Reporter Alessandra Nucci stated this fact in 2013, but it remains still quite true today: “Despite a stunning one-time-only admission by President Obama to a delegation of patriarchs in Washington . . . the bipartisan attitude towards the Syrian government has continued to hover between aloof and openly hostile.”

These observations deserve further explanation, as do the following questions: Do Christians in Syria support Assad, and if so, why?

A Christian civilization nearly two millennia old, Syria currently houses over 2.2 million Christians. For nearly 2,000 years Syrian Christianity has flourished richly and widely; denominations include the Greek and Syriac Orthodox Churches, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Roman, Armenian, Syrian, and Chaldean Catholic Churches, and the Assyrian (Nestorian) Church, all of which have peacefully coexisted historically with Alawite, Sunni, Druze, and Shiite Muslim populations.

In the words of a writer from The Economist in December 2016:

“Just like Iraq, Syria hosts an array of Christian confessions, distinguished by the positions their forebears took in church councils of up to 15 centuries ago. Some are in communion with Rome, others with Greek and Russian Orthodoxy, still others have subtle doctrinal differences with all the above but keep friendly terms with their co-religionists elsewhere. Whatever they believe, virtually all have accepted Russia's renewed claim, originally dating from the 19th century, to be the protector of Christians in the region. "Russia has given hope to the people of Syria," according to Patriarch Ignatios Ephrem II, leader of the Syrian Orthodox church.

With this history, is it any wonder that nearly the totality of Syrian Christians have sided with Assad and the Russian government who have protected their families, homes, and livelihoods? At the mercy of rebels who have joined ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and the al-Qaida-connected al-Nusra Front, Syrian Christians have pleaded for leaders around the world to acknowledge their sovereignty and the preservation of their homeland, by far best assured under President Assad.

In international interviews, Syrian Christians have stated the following about the rebels:

"We are afraid that these people will try to destroy our peaceful life. . . but we trust the army and security and state”

“We used to live in peace, Muslims and Christians. Of course, we’re afraid people from outside the city and the country may come and destroy this unity. Assad became more than just the head of state. He is a kind of international symbol of this fight for our life.”

“There were people here; they wanted to push us against the government, the president, the army. If you hear the army enter the city and kill people, believe me this is a mistake, the army is here to protect people. God bless Assad; he did a lot to protect this state and make it strong.”

“Our country before the crisis was developing. Now we’re all losing. Jesus said any kingdom that splits will die fast. These people are receiving money and listening to the orders. They want to ruin this country.”

These quotes refer to the Islamist rebels who have flooded into Syria, most notably from Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Practitioners of “radical Islam extremism,” these rebels have destroyed much of the culture and many of the religious artifacts that once stood as testaments to Syria’s ancient Christian faith. At the mercy of international governments who have armed the “wrong men,” Syrian Christians see the Assad government as their only protector against the onslaught of Arab extremism and terror.

In the words of Abu Fadi, a prominent Syrian Christian leader in Aleppo, “There is no question at all about whom we support: the government, of course. It is the only force protecting us from the jihadists and extremists.” While Abu Fadi acknowledges that some Christians once opposed Assad, basing that opposition on “protests against corruption and the need for reform,” they rapidly discovered that the alternative was nothing more than violent religious extremism. As he concluded, “They want to get rid of us, drive us from our lands that we have inhabited for centuries. They have destroyed churches. Look at Kassab and Ma’aloula [the sites of Christian massacres by Syrian rebels], do you need further proof?”

Never reported in the American media, the destruction of these towns represents the erasure of a Christian culture in the name of “global democracy” and “human rights”. In the words of Andrew Ashdown, an Anglican priest who visited Aleppo shortly after Assad’s recapture of that city, “The Syrian people are not being listened to; the international community is not listening to the people of Syria themselves. . .. Have we not learned from Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya?”

Perhaps the words of Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Joseph III Younan will ring yet more clearly; in response to a French prime-time news caster, who claimed, “Assad is . . . a monster. He’s killing innocent people, children and women,” Younan replied with an account excerpted by The Center for Research on Globalization:

“…of a Syrian town on the Euphrates River which is 98 percent Sunni Muslim. The Capuchin [priest] told Younan that as the town was being attacked by anti-government rebels, he sheltered four Missionaries of Charity sisters and 12 elderly women in their care within his parish center. When the situation was no longer sustainable, the Capuchin said, the nuns called Damascus. ‘And Damascus sent military vehicles to evacuate [them] from the parish compound—there were the nuns, 12 elderly people, and [the Capuchin], and they took all to safety, in Damascus.’ ‘Now,’ Patriarch Younan had said to the French news-show host, ‘you can judge for yourself if this person, Assad, is a monster or not’.”

The words of Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham of Syria should also speak to fellow Christians about the true plight and views of Syrian Christians. In an interview with Asia News, Laham stated:

“The Church of the Arabs means the Church of Jesus Christ, which lives in an Arabian setting and in a profound and intimate relationship with the Arab world, with its pain and its hopes, its joys and its sorrows, its problems and its crisis. The Church is Emmanuel, a Church with, for and in this Arab society, without forgetting its Arab roots and nature, thanks to our history and our geography.”

Syrian Christians have turned to the Assad government for protection and the preservation of their Christian heritage. Contrary to reports that Assad chemically gasses these Christians and their moderate Muslim constituents, evidence shows that he is neither responsible for, nor insensitive to, the gruesome gassings carried out by local rebel groups (including the White Helmets)  and their Saudi-Arabian suppliers. As UN human rights investigator Carla del Ponte indicated in 2013 rebels are responsible for using sarin gas on Syrian civilians. Even the U.N. Security Council’s reports on the 2013 gassings refuse to indict or explicitly blame the Assad government, yet both neoconservative and liberal American news sources have produced fallacious interpretations of the remaining evidence to support their own agendas in 2013; they continue to do so even as authorities question the present gassings in 2017.


As Anatoly Karlin concludes:

“There are so many problems with the propaganda campaign against Assad getting unrolled now:

(1) You can’t treat exposure to sarin with your bare hands without falling ill/dead yourself, as the White Helmets were apparently doing in the aftermath of the Idlib attack.

(2) As Syrian war reporter @Partisangirl noticed, some journalists were apparently discussing a sarin attack before it actually happened.

(3) It is eerily reminiscent of the aftermath of the 2013 Gouta attacks, in which the Western media and neocon and neocon-in-all-but-name politicians and punditry parroted the official line that Assad’s troops were responsible even though consequent journalistic work by Seymour Hersh and MIT raised serious doubts over the veracity of that allegation.

(4) The “moderate rebels” have themselves resorted to poison gas on various occasions.

(5) Unlike in 2013, Assad is now winning. Why on Earth now, of all times, would he resort to poison gas – one of the few things he can do to that is capable of provoking a strong Western reaction – just to kill all of 75 civilians? It just makes no sense.

Assad’s six year war against rebels in Syria has in fact been successful, but if we refuse to speak the truth of Assad’s support for Christians and moderate Muslims in the region, we lie to ourselves and defy the right of Syria to manage its own affairs.”

We would do well to take the advice of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: "You can resolve to live your life with integrity. The simple step of a simple courageous man is not to take part in a lie, not to support deceit. Let your credo be this: let the lie come into the world, let it even dominate the world, but not through me."

If we continue to disseminate these lies, we will forever have the blood of Syrian martyrs on our hands.

 

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