Wednesday, December 7, 2011

137. Syria: Christians fear for their future

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 137 | Wed 07 Dec 2011

SYRIA: CHRISTIANS FEAR FOR THEIR FUTURE

By Elizabeth Kendal

When democracy is decoupled from its Judeo-Christian foundations it is diminished, becoming little more than majoritarianism. When majoritarianism is inserted into highly tribal and sectarian cultures it risks enabling and legitimising tyranny by the majority. When the cost of losing power is enormous -- poverty, persecution and death -- tribes and sects have little choice but to resist or to flee.

WW1 saw the break-up of the Ottoman Empire and the end of the Caliphate with Syria coming under French rule. The French disempowered the Sunni majority by empowering the religious minorities, elevating them to positions of authority in the military and the government. Over the course of five or six decades, the Alawites (a Muslim sect and the largest minority at 12-15 percent) and the Christians (10 percent) went from being persecuted dhimmis -- vulnerable, second-class citizens subjugated under Islam -- to principal, elite power-brokers. Like other secular dictatorial regimes in the Middle East, Syria's ruling Baathist party has respected religious freedom to a large degree while crushing political threats, especially that of fundamentalist political Islam. In this regard, the main difference between Iraq and Syria is that in Iraq, Saddam Hussein maintained secularism by repressing an Iran-backed political Shi'ite majority whilst in Syria, the Assad regime has maintained secularism by repressing a Saudi-backed Sunni majority influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The current uprising in Syria is not about 'democracy' as the West knows it. It is about restoring majoritarianism (Sunni domination), Arab hegemony and the Islamic order to Syria. Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood elements -- local and foreign, ideological and militant -- are inciting and exploiting the protests within which are many genuine voices calling for political and human rights reform. Furthermore, the conflict in Syria has regional dimensions. Syria is not merely allied to Shi'ite Persian Iran and to Shi'ite Hezballah in Lebanon, it is integral -- politically, militarily and geographically -- to the Iranian axis and 'Shi'ite Crescent'. Yet Syria is 90 percent Arab and majority Sunni. Consequently, a proxy war is being playing out in Syria for Syria, between the Iranian axis and the US-Saudi / Gulf Arab axis. Israel has long been threatened by the belligerent anti-Semitism of the Iranian axis but the belligerent anti-Semitic fundamentalist Islam rising to power in the Arab states in the wake of the 'Arab Spring' may yet prove worse. This would leave Israel wondering if it is a case of 'better the devil we know'! Significantly, Hamas is leaving its headquarters in Damascus and relocating, not to Tehran, but to Cairo.

Syrian Christians maintain that the fall of the Assad regime would be disastrous for Syria's nearly three million Christians, including hundreds of thousands of Assyrian-Chaldean refugees from Iraq. To discredit this, Western and Arab media are spreading the propaganda that Assad is fear-mongering, exploiting the Christians' supposedly unreasonable and irrational fears of Islam. However, the Christians are not only reflecting on their own history but are looking around at their co-religionists facing genocide in Iraq and massacres in Egypt. Even now, reports are leaking out about Syrian Christians being forced out of their homes and arson of Christian businesses. One chant being heard in the protests has been: 'The Alawites to the grave and the Christians to Beirut'. Consequently, Christians fear that should the Assad regime fall or Syria break up, Christians would be left defenceless before a flood of violent persecution and ethnic cleansing. Their fears are definitely justified.

For more background see:
Syria: Christians Vulnerable
by Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 16 May 2011

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR --

* WISDOM: that Christian community leaders might have strategic wisdom to direct their local / ethnic communities; that the church's leaders might have spiritual wisdom to lead their denominations, congregations and fellowships; that Christian parents might have divine wisdom to guide their families through this crisis to the glory of God.

* FAITH: that all Christians in Syria might grow in faith as they fix their eyes on Jesus, 'the founder and perfecter of [their] faith'. (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

* God to intervene to still 'the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth [might be] in awe at [his] signs. (Psalm 65:7b,8a ESV).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHRISTIANS IN SYRIA FEAR FOR THEIR FUTURE

The uprising in Syria is not about 'democracy' as the West knows it. It is about restoring majoritarianism (Sunni Muslim domination), Arab hegemony and the Islamic order to Syria. Furthermore, a proxy war is playing out in Syria for Syria, between the Iranian-Hezballah axis and the US-Saudi / Gulf Arab axis. The fall of the Assad regime would be disastrous for Syria's nearly three million Christians, including hundreds of thousands of Assyrian-Chaldean refugees from Iraq, who could find themselves defenceless before a flood of violent persecution and ethnic cleansing. Their fears are fully justified, considering the situation in Iraq, where Christians are facing genocide, and in Egypt, where Christians are facing escalating violent persecution and massacres. They are already being attacked amidst the Syrian protests. Please pray for the Church in Syria.

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