“Of course Syrian Christians are afraid. They have much to lose and they know it, Even if this absurd conflict that pits brothers against each other, Christians have nothing to do with it and they will be the ones, as a minority, who may have to pay the highest price of this absurd war,” said a Christian priest, who spoke to MISNA from Syria, while the armed forces continue pounding Homs, the opposition stronghold.
“Most Christians have left Homs, fearing the bombs and possible clashes. There are armed opposition elements in the city that could engage in battles with the military. This is something that the western media has not discussed much, giving the impression that all of a sudden the Syrian government has gone crazy and started to attack its people simply because they started to demonstrate peacefully in the streets”, said the source, who wishes to remain anonymous.
Along with Lebanon, Syria is the only Arab country where Islam is not formally described as the religion of State in the Constitution and faith is not listed in citizens’ ID cards.
However, in recent weeks, fears of a confessional dimension to the riots in Syria – starting with Homs, where the population is split between Sunni and Alawi – are fueled by the memory of the exodus of Iraqi Christians.
“In their eyes and ears, all Syrians hear the echoes of the terrible accounts of the refugees fleeing from Baghdad, Mosul or Erbil”, said the source, noting that while Europe tried to hold them back or to divert them to Africa and Latin America, “Syria has opened its doors to Iraqis, of any religious confession they might be”.
The battles on the street finds a wider echo in the international arena, as western powers face opposition from China and Russia, which vetoed a UN Security Council Resolution that demanded Assad’s resignation.
However, the MISNA source notes “that the one blowing the most wind over the fire calling for a humanitarian intervention such as the one devised for Libya are powers united by a common enemy: Iran. The United States that cannot wait to do away with the Ayatollahs, Sunni Turkey that fears interference over the Shiite government in Baghdad, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Monarchies who challenge the Shiites for religious hegemony in the wider Middle East”.
In Syria, adds the priest, there are many who believe that “this war, fought largely in the media, goes beyond Damascus and Homs and that in fact stretches its gaze toward Tehran”.