While a number of prominent Christian leaders have backed Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad as he engages in the mass murder of Syrian men, women, and children, it is important to remember that many Syrian Christians have been brutalized and murdered by the regime because of their courageous commitment to freedom, democracy, and human rights. And, of course, many others have been killed simply because of Assad’s indiscriminate use of force to terrorize the population. The persecution of Christians, Yazidis, and others by ISIS should not obscure this fact. Hind Kabawat has a new article that reminds everyone that the war in Syria is not a holy war, many Christians have stood by their values instead of embracing sectarianism, and that Assad’s millions of victims—who have their lives uprooted or ended by the dictator’s lust for power—include Syrian Christians:
Before the uprising, Daraya was a sleepy middle-class suburb for Damascus residents. By 2011, it had become an epicenter of peaceful protests, as thousands marched in the streets calling for Assad to step down from power. As a member of the Syrian Christian community, I was overwhelmed with excitement to join this grassroots people’s movement that called for democracy, freedom and rights for all Syrians, no matter our differences.
Syrians were united then. The church bells rang in Daraya in solidarity with the protesters. From their balconies in the narrow streets, Syrian Christians showered protesters below with rice and flowers. They marched hand in hand.
A holy war, this was not.
By 2012, the Assad regime intensified its armed crackdown against the unarmed protesters in Daraya. A terrible massacre occurred there on Aug. 24, 2012, as Assad’s regime sent troops, secret police, and members of the elite 4th Division to prevent residents from fleeing the city by any means necessary. Families were executed in their homes, whole buildings of women and children were machine-gunned in the streets, and residents were even decapitated — long before the so-called Islamic State even existed.
The state-run media launched an aggressive propaganda campaign claiming Muslims were massacring Christians, aiming to stoke fear of the opposition in the Christian community. As regime soldiers went door to door, searching for people to murder, it was the Christian community of Daraya that opened theirs to protect those fleeing the atrocities. One Catholic church treated the injured and prepared food for them….
If anything, Putin and Assad’s bombing and starvation campaign has made Syria more dangerous for Christians. The barrel bombs dropped by their military machine on Daraya and towns across the country cannot offer our Christian community protection. The thousands of Syrian children unable to attend schools, and the thousands facing starvation due to Assad’s kneel or die policy, cannot offer Syrian Christians peace of mind.