It was an important and historic Christian occasion. It was an opportunity to say what has not been said. “We shall continue to work for a Christian-Muslim unity in Syria so that the crisis could end and Syria would remain united,” said Patriarch John X Yazigi. This is a commendable patriotic spirit, yet the current crisis demands much more than that and since there is a Christian rejection of military intervention and an international tendency towards a political resolution, the patriarch could have sounded alarm bells for both parties as long as he does not want to take sides. He could have said that Syria’s unity is being jeopardized and that the conflict is starting to take its toll on the “joint civilization” that both Christians and Muslims had established together.
On that day Moaz al-Khatib, head of the opposition coalition, was waiting for the regime to respond to his initiative about starting dialogue if the detainees were released or even if the sign of goodwill was confined to the release of female detainees only. He did not ask for the impossible and he did not receive an answer, only an invitation for a dialogue “without prior conditions” of course. Nobody expected Syrian or Lebanese Christians to be involved in the controversy, but the desired resolution of the Syrian crisis requires an intervention, preferably from inside.
If Christians are concerned about the “civilization aspect,” they need to protect it in a way that is different from that used before the crisis started or when it first started, for they now need to take a little bit of, actually a great deal of, initiative.
Nobody has the right to tell the church how it can work, for it will find a way and it is undoubtedly aware that neutrality inside Syria only means one thing now: leaning, and I wouldn’t say bias, toward the regime and remaining under it control. The reasons for this “leaning” and its continuation are clear, but what is not clear is how this stance is expected to help achieve “a Christian-Muslim unity.” There is no doubt that leaning toward the regime does not necessarily mean approving its brutal practices, yet not doing anything about them for a long time results in a burdened conscience.
The church, wherever it is, is known not to turn a blind eye to injustice and if it has to, as is the case in Syria, it will not support or justify this injustice.
Syrian Christians are definitely in a very hard position. Let’s say they have their own way in telling their brethren that they feel for their suffering. Yet, some Lebanese Christians have been an embarrassment for Syrians, both Christians and Muslims. They did not voice a firm opinion about the violence of the regime throughout months of peaceful protests or about brutality, torture, rape, and destruction. Those have been dedicated to defending the regime, defending tyranny and crime. What kind of Christianity do they belong to then?
This article was published in Lebanon's An-Nahar newspaper on Feb.13, 2013.
Abdul Wahab Badrakhan is a Lebanese journalist, who writes weekly in London's Al-Hayat newspaper among other Arab publications. Badrakhan was a journalist in 'Annahar' (Beirut) until 1979, in 'Annahar Arabic & international' magazine (Paris) up to 1989, in 'Al-Hayat' (London) as managing editor then deputy editor in chief until 2006. At present, Badrakhan is working on two books. The first book is on the roots of the experiences that have motivated young Arab men to go to Afghanistan. The second is devoted to Arab policies to counterterrorism, starting with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and covering the ensuing wars.