Nazareth, where I live, lays less than 100 Miles from Damascus, but the two cities are stationed in enemy countries. Nevertheless - Christians in Nazareth are not worried of the missiles that might fall on their town as a result of some Syrian allies’ retaliation (namely Hezbollah) after an American strike on Damascus. Instead they are watching in worried anticipation to see what the results of such attack will be. Their major concern is that the trend of exclusion of Arab Christians in the Middle East that we have witnessed in the last few decades will intensify dramatically by the end of the attack.
There are different sides to the debate concerning attacking Syria but I will focus on the one that seems to be fundamental at least in the eyes of the Christians in the region, including here in Nazareth.
In regions where totalitarian governments lead, minorities suffer the most. They lack rights that are preserved to the ruling majority. This situation deteriorates whenever disruption or disturbances occur. The Middle East is no exception. Whenever there are forms of revolt or reform or instability then Arab Christians find themselves as the natural scapegoat or victim of fanatics or mob. The American invasion of Iraq led to mass evacuation of Christian Iraqis. Periodic mini wars between Israel and the Palestinians have led to a steady immigration from the Holy land. The civil war in Lebanon has resulted in the loss of the Christian hegemony in the “Switzerland of the middle East”.
The “Arab Spring” that swept through the whole Arab World has been controversial. Its dim results have caused people to call it the “Arab Autumn” because of the types of Radical Islamic regimes that came to power as a result of these upheavals. Others still hope it will bring positive changes in the longer range. However one thing is agreed by all: it was a major disruption in the foundations of the existing regimes and the same diagram is repeated in the form of new challenges for Arab Christians. It was felt in Egypt during the one year rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. There it went beyond the established marginalization of Christians to unleashed attacks by fanatic Muslims and frustrated mob on Christians in different parts of Egypt including on churches.
This same “Arab Spring” quickly led to a civil war in Syria between the secular regime of Assad supported by the Christian and Druze minorities against a coalition of Muslim Sunni fractions with a strong Radical Muslim component in it.
Arab Christians all around the world are praying for a last minute miracle that will spare Syria from the anticipated devastation. As much as this might seem blunt, but in light of the 120,000 people killed by conventional weapons among the fighting parties in the last 2 years and a half, then chemical attack by Assad is perceived merely as a technical offence.
The painful assault on Syria has the potential of toppling the Assad regime and the rise of groups that will have Alqaeda as its spearhead to power. This should worry every citizen of the world especially when remembering that Syria is placed in a strategic location and sharing borders with Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey
Such fall of Assad could lead to the potential of an Arab Christians genocide. A new episode of emptying the Middle East from its Christians will be written. The places that witnessed the story of God’s dealings with human kind are supposed to flourish with followers of Christ. Maintaining a strong living witness for Christ that will shine near the physical stones and ruins should be a priority. These followers have suffered blows in the land of Abraham’s origin (Iraq), the land of the Bible (Israel/ Palestine), the land that gave baby Jesus a shelter (Egypt).
Is Syria, the land that gave shelter to Paul, doomed to the same fate?
Where are the true Christians to hear the cry of their brothers in the Middle East?
Is it too late to stop this madness?