Syrian Christians Menaced by Extremist Sunnis, Slam Lack of Lebanese Support

Layal Abu Rahhal reported in Arabic from Beirut for al-Sharq al-Awsat [The Middle East] on the dilemmas of Syrian Christians and their Lebanese neighbors, Dec. 13, 2013. This is my paraphrase, influenced by the translation done by BBC Monitoring:

Considering what the Christians of Syria are facing, Christians in Lebanon are raising alarums about the attacks by the Muslim takfiri (excommunicationist) groups, who say even of other Muslims that they are unbelievers. The problems and concerns of the Christians of the East have worsened in the past two years owing to the crisis in Syria . . . Christians expressed their anger and condemnation when the city of Ma’lulah was attacked and its nuns abducted, given its historic Christian symbolism and the fact that it is visited by almost all Christians of Lebanon. This last month two bishops, Yuhanna Ibrahim and Bulus al-Yaziji, brother of Yuhanna al- Yaziji, Patriarch of Antioch were kidnapped.

Arab Christians, who are among the “minorities” have always had backing from the Christians in Lebanon, who, throughout history, enjoyed privileges and the ability to play a fundamental role. However, the current division of Lebanese Christian leaders into two opposing camps, which differ in approach to Lebanese politics and to the Syrian crisis itself, has caused their influence at local and regional level to be almost nonexistent.

In this context, Syrian opposition Jamil Diyar Bakri of the Assyrian organization in Istanbul, told Al – Sharq al- Awsat that he regretted “the lack of true Christian support first for Christians in Iraq and later for Christians in Syria. ” He said that Christian leaders in Lebanon have no clear plan and do not play any role as defenders of the problems of Christians in the Middle East…

Father George Massuh, director of the Centre for Christian-Muslim Studies at the University of Balamand said . . . we look at Syria as a whole, we do not act on the basis of the targeting of Christians, because all Syria is shedding blood. He stressed that the churches of Christians are not more precious than . . the mosques of Muslims and they are worried with the pain of all the Syrian people.

Massuh stressed … that the Christians of Syria are the only group that does not have militias and has not raised an army. He said that the fortune of Christians usually lies with the state. Therefore there are no armed Christians, with the exception of those in the Syrian army. He added that bearing arms to defend icons and churches is not part of the values ​​of the Christians . Yet no Christian authority wants the shedding of the blood of one of Syria on the hands of Christian militias. . .

The Christian thinkers interviewed agree that takfiri extremist organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Nusrah Front are the ” enemy” of the Christians of Syria
The Christian thinkers interviewed agree that takfiri extremist organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Nusrah Front are the ” enemy” of the Christians of Syria, especially Christians of the East in general. ..

Meanwhile , Bu – Habib said that ” targeting Christians does not happen at the hands of the Free Syrian Army, but at the hands of takfiri groups that do not accept others who differ with them, they do not even distinguish between moderate Sunnis and Sunni extremists. . .

Related video:

The BBC reports on “Syria crisis: Fierce battle in Christian town Maaloula”

4 Responses

  1. Lebanese Christians deep divisions about how to relate to Syria began years before the current civil war. The Lebanese people have been split between those that despise Assad (whose forces occupied their country for years) , and those like Hizzbollah who think working with Assad is best for their country.
    Syrian Christians feel safer with Assad. The current conflict may have driven some Lebanese Christians into the Assad camp. But, some of them remember crimes Assad committed against their communities. And some Lebanese Christians remain in the political camp opposed to Hizbollah/Syria/Iran.
    It’s hard for Christian leaders to extract themselves from the regions politics and just be pro-Christian.
    I like the statement by Massuh that “bearing arms to defend icons and churches is not part of the values of Christians”.

  2. The article reminds us once again not to equate Sunni fundamentalists with Shia Hezbollah or Shia Iran. For example, westerners “think of images of demonstrations and chanting crowds and assume (encouraged by our news media) that Iranian Shi’ism is a dangerous, uncontrollable, fanatical force. But in truth the religious hierarchy that Iranian Shi’ism has developed means that religious Iranians are more controlled, more subject to religious discipline and the guidance of senior clerics (most of whom are pragmatic and moderate…) than Sunni Muslims, who since the dissolution of the Caliphate in the 1920s have lacked that kind of structure. Some experts have pointed to that lack as a factor in the rise of radical, theologically incoherent groups like Al-Qaeda.”
    link to

    • We need to remember not to equate Sunni extremists with moderate, pragmatic Sunnis. The Leabanese March 14 Coalition, for example, includes Sunnis and Christians. When they were in power, they made no attempt to establish a theocracy.

  3. Makes one wonder how to even define the “problem(s),” far less envision the things that can be done to “fix it(them).” I guess the Wise just go about pursuing their “national and/or commercial and/or parochial interests,” even if those pursuits make all the other problems ever worser…

    Army techs used to say that the guy who designed the mechanical-hydraulic computer that was the fuel-control unit for the Lycoming T-53 turboshaft engine, which powered the Hueys I flew around in and fixed way back when, went insane from figuring out the relatively straightforward problem of getting some 8,000 tiny precision parts to meter JP-4 to the combustion section. Cf. “peace in the Middle East.”

    For wry smiles, a little divertimento from all the seriousness (though I guess helos were used to deliver barrel bombs, screw over various indigenous populations, and drop “political prisoners” into Disappeared status in the South Atlantic): link to

    Are there joke collections that capture the essence of (presumably grim, if “Allahu Akhbar” ebullient) takfiri humor… or would they shoot you for even asking?

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