Save the Christians

June 3, 2012

In October 2010 al-Qaeda terrorist killed 58 Iraqi Christians in an attack on Baghdad’s Lady of Salvation Church. About 200 Catholics were attending the evening mass in the church when terrorists broke in, shouting: “Christian dogs, you are all going to die because you are infidels, you’re going to hell and we are going to paradise! Allah Akbar!”

The gunmen then began firing randomly — at people, church icons and even windows. They acted ferociously, as if the very sight of the church’s interior had enraged them.

Father Wassim Sabih was pushed to the ground as he grasped a crucifix and pleaded to the gunmen to spare the worshipers — an AK47 salvo ended his life. A four year old toddler ran after on of the terrorists and shouted “enough, enough!”, in response the gunman just turned and riddled the valiant child with bullets.

This was not the only attack against the Christian community in Iraq, which after the fall of Saddam Hussein lost two-thirds of its 1.4 million members, and Iraqi Christians were not the only Christian minority in the Middle East, that came under attack by Islamists.

Coptic Christians in Egypt are also under threat by emboldened Islamists. Churches are burned down, harassment and assassinations have intensified. 21 worshippers were killed and 70 wounded when on December 31 during New Year’s Eve service a suicide bomber struck against the al-Qiddissin Church in Alexandria. In October 2011 an assault against Coptic Christians in Cairo left 26 dead and hundreds wounded. Copts once represented about 20 percent of the population, but their numbers have dwindled in the last decades to under 10 percent.

Is seems than the ire of the Islamists now is turning against Syria’s Christians, which represent about 10 percent of the population. 60 percent of Syria’s Christians belong to the Orthodox Church.

Syrias Christian community is generally regarded as supportive of the secular government of President Bashar Assad, which has always been tolerant of religious minorities.

When the influential Patriarch Kirill of Moscow visited Damascus last year, he greeted the population in a street procession alongside his Syrian counterpart Patriarch Ignatius. TV footage showed the two men surrounded by people holding President Assad’s portrait. The patriarch made also a sympathetic appearance with President Assad, praising Syria’s treatment of Christians.

At the start of April there were already reports (conveniently ignored by Western media), that Christians in al-Qusayr, a city near the Lebanese boarder, were killed and kidnapped by FSA (Free Syrian Army) gangs and their houses bombed or burned after being looted. The house of the local parish priest, Father George Louis was hit by four mortar rounds and completely destroyed. According to survivors, all property of the Christian families has been redistributed to local Sunni Muslims.

The Vaticans news agency Agenzia Fides reported, that the Syrian Orthodox Church is worried about an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians in the embattled city of Homs. Militants have expelled 90 percent of Christians in Homs and confiscated their residences by force, said Fides, citing a note sent to the agency by the Orthodox Church.

The Vatican agency cited witnesses saying militants went door to door in the Homs neighborhoods of Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan, “forcing Christians to flee, without giving them the chance to take their belongings.”

According to another report members of the FSA Al-Faruq battalion have imposed an Islamic tax on Christians in Homs and threaten to kill or kidnap everybody who is not willing to pay. Some Christians have already disappeared, whilst others have been imprisoned in a detention camp erected in the village of Ammar al-Husn, the battalion’s headquarter.

The Vicar Apostolic of Aleppo, Mgr. Giuseppe Nazzaro told Fides: “We have no sources to confirm this information directly, but we can say that these developments are beginning to break down the wall of silence built up to now by the press worldwide. In this situation Islamist and terrorist movements are making headway.” The Vicar remembers with concern a recent episode: “Last Sunday, a car bomb exploded in Aleppo packed with TNT, in the vicinity of the school of the Franciscan fathers. By a miracle a massacre of children was avoided at the Center of catechesis of the Church of St. Bonaventure because the Franciscan, sensing danger, made the children leave 15 minutes before the usual time. 

The following text is from the blog The Morning Offering, published by members of The Brotherhood of the All-Merciful Savior, an Orthodox Christian monastery in Seattle. The text refers to “the dictatorial and despotic regime of President Assad,” which is at present the standard phrase every US citizen has to recite to oblige to the (by the Ministry of Truth) officially sanctioned narrative.

The text nevertheless is cavillous and can by no means be misunderstood as an endorsement of US politics in the Middle East.

Syria, the Arab Spring, and Russia

A year ago, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia joined his Syrian counterpart, Patriarch Ignatius of Antioch, whom His Holiness has known for forty years, in a street procession that took place in Damascus. During this same visit, Patriarch Kirill made an appearance with President Assad, thanking Syria’s president for the treatment of Syrian Christians.

The events in the Middle East have made it important for the Orthodox Church to involve herself directly in foreign affairs. Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations, has defended the Russian Church’s involvement in State affairs, stating, “they are killing our brothers and sisters, driving them from their homes, separating them from their near and dear, stripping them of the right to confess their religious beliefs.”  The Metropolitan, along with other bishops of the Patriarchate, have asked the Russian government to protect Christian minorities in the Middle East. Patriarch Kirill, seeing similarities in the Middle East, has reminded his countrymen of the Bolshevik persecution of the Church, and “the carcasses of defiled churches still remaining in our country.”

Most Americans see no problem with Billy Graham having attempted to influence American policies by meeting with our presidents Nixon or Reagan, yet are disturbed when reading of the influence Patriarch Kirill has on Russian national leaders. Our government looks upon the Russian Church’s close ties with the government of President Putin with concern, while courting  American Christian leaders as political allies, all the while stifling the moral authority of Biblical Christianity.

American foreign policy has been catastrophic for Christians in the Kosovo, Egypt, Iraq, and throughout the Middle East, leading to the deaths of thousands of Orthodox Christians, and the destruction of many Orthodox churches and monasteries. American foreign policy, because it has not taken into account religious factors, has continued to lead to the devastation and destruction of a Christian minority that has been in the Middle East from the very foundations of Christianity itself. Because our government has refused to take into account the moral and religious views of civilizations that hold to a completely different worldview, we’ve continued to undermine the very fabric of societies that have lived in peace with their Christian neighbors for centuries. 

The American insistence on placating a militant form of Islam, without taking into account the safety of Christian minorities, continues to lead to disaster for the Christians of the Middle East. That the American media’s one-sided coverage of the conflicts on the world front have contributed to an ignorance on the part of the American public could be seen as pathetic, if not for the tragic consequences for the minority Christians in those lands. Egypt’s Coptic minority is a prime example of a whole Christian population being discounted, and forgotten, by an American public that has chosen to believe a blind sighted media holding to Christianophobic views.

American governmental officials who have urged Christians of Syria to join their Islamic counterparts in the uprising against President Assad, have failed to notice that Coptic Christians did the very same thing during the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt, only to suffer greatly once the Islamic fundamentalists gained power, pushing for an Islamic State.

No one in the Orthodox world is justifying the dictatorial and despotic regime of President Assad, but we have noticed the opposition has not even attempted to hide their intention to build an Islamic state, with Christians of the Middle East left to pay the price. I for one, stand with my Christian brothers and sisters of the Middle East. I also stand with His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

May God preserve Orthodox Christians throughout the Middle East, and may Orthodoxy triumph against the powers of darkness.

With love in Christ, 
Abbot Tryphon


Agenzia Fides reports on June 04:

“Peace in Syria could be saved if everyone told the truth. After a year of conflict, the reality on the ground is far from the picture that imposes disinformation in Western media;” says a testimony sent to Fides Agency by the French Bishop Philip Tournyol Clos, a greek-Catholic Melkite Archimandrite, who recently visited Syria, by traveling to different cities, like Damascus, Aleppo and Homs.

In Homs, called the “martyred city”, “opposition forces have occupied two areas, Diwan Al Bustan and Hamidieh, where there are all the churches and bishoprics,” the Archimandrite told Fides. “The picture for us — he continues — is utter desolation: the church of Mar Elian is half destroyed and that of Our Lady of Peace is still occupied by the rebels. Christian homes are severely damaged due to the fighting and completely emptied of their inhabitants, who fled without taking anything. The area of Hamidieh is still shelter to armed groups independent of each other, heavily armed and bankrolled by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. All Christians (138,000) have fled to Damascus and Lebanon, while others took refuge in the surrounding countryside. A priest was killed and another was wounded by three bullets. Still a couple live there, but the five bishops have had to take refuge in Damascus and Lebanon.”

The Christian leader continues: “In the capital car bombs and assassinations on behalf of Islamist suicide bombers, drawn by the desire of heaven, that cradle the dream of the end of the Alawite regime are feared. Currently the country, through the bloody work of adventurers who are not Syrian is trying to be destabilized. The former French ambassador, Eric Chevallier, reported this information, which was always rejected, while many details remain to be forged to keep the war against Syria,” denounced the Bishop to Fides. In Damascus in recent weeks, there were terrible attacks that ended with a toll: of 130 deaths (including 34 Christians), 400 injured and many houses damaged. “The consternation was general, indescribable pain,” notes the Archimandrite, recalling that “the Syrians are simple and playful people.”

As far as Christians are concerned the Bishop says: “Christians live in peace, sharing the sufferings of all, but they are ready to admit that they have never felt so free in the past and to remember the full recognition of their rights, given to them by this government.” Mgr. Philip Tournyol Clos says the key to Syrian Christian and Muslim leaders, who say: “The enemies of Syria have enlisted some of the Muslim Brotherhood in order to destroy the brotherly relations that traditionally existed between Muslims and Christians: Yet, to date,they are not able to: they have provoked a contrary reaction and the two communities are more united than before.”

The Syrian soldiers in fact, continue to face foreign fighters, mercenaries Libyans, Lebanese militants from the Gulf, Afghans, Turks. “The Sunni Salafist militants — says the Bishop — continue to commit crimes against civilians, or to recruit fighters with force. The fanatical Sunni extremists are fighting a holy war proudly, especially against the Alawites. When terrorists seek to control the religious identity of a suspect, they ask him to cite the genealogies dating back to Moses. And they ask to recite a prayer that the Alawites removed. The Alawites have no chance to get out alive.”

One comment

  1. […] in Syria fight for survival Defending the Saidnaya monastery Save the Christians The nearly forgotten war in Syria Insights about […]


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