First Published: 2011-05-04

 

Syria's Christian against fall of Assad regime

 

Syrian church prayers for 'divine protection' for embattled President Assad following deadly unrest.

 

Middle East Online

By Rana Moussaoui - DAMASCUS

'Christians have a good life in Syria'

Father Elias Debii raises his hands to heaven and prays for divine protection for embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is facing unprecedented protests against his regime.

His prayer at the Dormition of Our Lady Greek Catholic cathedral in Old Damascus rings loud in the ears of many members of his congregation, who oppose an end to the regime of Assad even if they long for more freedoms.

"We ask God to protect our president, our government and our people from all ordeals and crises," Debii said on a recent Sunday to 250 worshippers gathered in church.

Christians represent 7.5 percent of Syria's multi-confessional population of 20 million Arabs and Kurds.

Sunni Muslims are the majority in Syrian while the Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam and the community from which Assad hails, has privileged ties with the minority Christians.

Although Syria's Christians have no real political weight as a community, some of them are well established businessmen and others hold state jobs. There are three cabinet ministers among their number, and the chief of staff, Daud Raja, is a Christian.

Many Christians say they are staunchly opposed to the fall of Syria's autocratic, but secular, regime, but they look forward to more reform in the country.

"Nothing will happen to the regime, because even if the president is gone we will take to the streets. We feel safe with him around," said Carine Khoury, a boutique owner, who has a Christian father and a Muslim mother.

"Christians have a good life in Syria, namely the freedom to worship thanks to President Bashar al-Assad. We are not afraid, even now," says Samer Shamut, a 36-year-old civil servant.

Optician Imad Layyus, 53, says Syria's Christians "have no political ambitions."

"We don't want power, we just want to co-exist in peace with the Muslims."

Syria has been gripped by seven weeks of deadly security crackdowns on protesters who have been demonstrating across the country demanding major political and economic reform, as well as the fall of the regime.

The government has blamed "armed gangs" for the unrest, namely extremist Muslim Salafists who espouse an austere form of Sunni Islam that seeks a return to practices that were common in the early days of the faith.

"Of course the Christians as well want more freedoms, on that we agree with the protesters, but we are mostly concerned about our safety," a businessman who declined to be named said.

He was pointing to Salafists and what some Syrian Christian call the "Iraqi nightmare" -- a reference to the wave of sectarian violence that followed the US-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime.

"Salafists frighten us. Look at Iraq: the Christians there lived in peace under Saddam, but now they have Al-Qaeda," said tour guide Michel Shaniss.

A wave of anti-Christian attacks after the US-led invasion forced a massive exodus of the community from Iraq.

Demonstrators in Syria had called for "Good Friday" protests across the country on April 22 -- two days before Easter -- as an apparent rebuttal to regime propaganda that has tried to portray the protesters as fanatics.

They urged Christians to join the nationwide protests, insisting in a slogan on the need to bolster "national unity."

 

GCC states vow united stand against IS mosque bombings

Egypt government adopts anti-terror law

21 killed in clashes, strikes in Yemen's Aden

Ankara has no plans for imminent intervention in Syria

Iraq Christians train for jihad against IS

Rockets from Sinai strike Israel

Palestinians arrest 100 Hamas members in West Bank

Erdogan inaugurates public mosque in palace

Islamists form alliance in battle for Aleppo

Top Tunisian jihadist reportedly killed by US strike in Libya

Emir attends joint Shiite, Sunni prayers in Kuwait

Hamas denies involvement in Sinai attacks

4 Qaeda suspects killed in US drone attack in Yemen

'Series of errors' behind Air Algerie crash in Mali

Palestinians protest one year after teenager burned alive

Egypt vows to wipe out 'dens of terror'

Tunisia arrests eight in connection with beach massacre

Youth in Tunisia 'ripe for radicalisation'

UN sends mission to 'assess' South Sudan atrocities

Syria urges citizens to enlist

AQAP step up campaign to eradicate qat

British FM: 'No breakthrough yet' in Iran nuclear talks

UN imposes first sanctions on six South Sudan generals

Libya rival governments will not return to peace talks

Fighting rages in Yemen’s Aden

Kurds warn Turkey against any ‘aggression’ in Syria

Kuwait makes DNA tests mandatory after suicide bombing

Kuwait parliament approves deficit budget on oil slide

Pro-Erdogan candidate becomes new speaker of Turkey parliament

‘War’ in Sinai Peninsula as clashes with ISIS fighters rage on

All 38 victims of Tunisia beach massacre identified

36 killed in wave of IS attack on Egyptian soldiers

Iran vs. Israel gets cartoon treatment

IAEA chief to fly to Iran for nuclear talks

Saudi prince pledges fortune to charity

Syria Kurds regain full control of Tal Abyad

Palestinian PM to make 'temporary' cabinet reshuffle

20 civilians killed in rebel fire on Yemen's Aden

Iran nuclear talks go into extra time

Gulf states urged to follow Kuwait on maid rights

Yemen rebels free 1,200 prisoners

Negotiators extend deadline for Iran nuclear talks

‘Islamic State’ re-enters Syria border town of Tal Abyad

Defiant tourists stay in Tunisia

Deadly clashes rage on in eastern Libya