Fearing Change, Many Christians in Syria Back Assad

With chaos growing, many Syrian Christians said they feared a change of power could deprive them of the semblance of protection the Assad family has provided.

Comments: 42

  1. So, as long as Assad's brutality is directed at their non-Christian neighbors instead of them, they'll support him?

  2. Religious freedom, the separation of church and state; how will The Arab Spring guarantee this?
    I fear, it won't - 'cause the revolution is railroaded by the religious zealots every time .

  3. Christians and all other non-Muslims should face reality and leave all countries where Muslims are a majority. It is just a matter of time before they ethnically cleansed via killing or expulsion or forced to convert to Islam. The founder of Islam, Muhammad, ruled that only one "deen" ( religion) can exist in Muslim lands. He massacred the Jews in Arabia and those that escaped death either had to convert or leave Arabia. Muslims are required to follow their "sunnah" or the traditions of their prophet. Non-Muslim countries should take in all non-Muslims stranded in Muslim majority countries. We should also orchestrate the migration of the Muslims amongst us to Muslim countries.

  4. Incredible. Christians support Assad? .What kind of christians are they? What kind of humanity those stupid religions tend to create? What kind of human beings can give priority to their unilateral vision of the world, instead of the survival and well being of all.

  5. At last someone wrote about the Christians fears. They are not only fears; they are realities. But it is not true that the opposition is only now resorting to arms, because there was have been since the beginning armed gangs and Sunni extremist fighters paid by outside countries. The Lebanese army has arrested a lot of arms smugling towards Syria. The Christians are not afraid of the Sunni extremists. Turkey says it is democratic. Do you know that, in 1920, 25% of its population was Christians and this, after the Genocide of the Christians in 1915, when 1.5 million of them were massacred? Where are they now?
    Iraq lost its Christians first, massacred, under the BRITISH MANDATE, in 1933, and now under the American occupation. In Libya, the Western occupation has brought Islamic extremists and former Al Qaeda fighters to power. In Egypt the Islamists are taking the power and some of them are attacking Christian villages. So, I don't suppose that the Syrian Christians would prefer them to the Assad regime. When the West is trying all its strength to overthrow Assad, it better have a plan for a real democracy in Syria. You are writing about 2600 deaths in Syria, half of them are security people. But how many innocent people were killed in Iraq during the American occupation, 500.000 or one million? Are Iraq and its population now, better than they were in the times of Saddam Hussein? They say that in Libya the Western intervention helped the opposition but at the cost of 50.000 deaths and nothing is finished yet. What do you think is more human or less inhuman, keeping Assad or creating a confessional war by inciting people to fight, by propaganda and disinformation, or pushing them to have a real dialogue with the government?
    The Lebanese Maronite Patriarch was right when he warned that “the fall of the government in Syria threatened Christians across the Middle East.” He knows what happened to the Christians in Lebanon when they listened to the Western mermaids.

  6. Semblance of protection? That's going to be a lot better than the overt discrimination, seizure of property, closing of churches and crime against Christains that will be unleashed on them (and all 'non believers') if Islamic fundamentalists arise to rule Middle Eastern countries.

    Somehow the NYT gives very fuzzy and vague when the Christians are worried about their rights in Islamic countries (as history gives them the right to be), but seems far more critical of and Islamic threat and supportive of the concerned when the worried group is Jewish, gay/lesbian etc.

  7. What a mistake! Like most decisions made more out of fear than from principle or any other moral judgment, it is an ill-conceived strategy. When the chickens come to roost, they will ultimately suffer from what they most fear - Islamic retribution because they were on the wrong side.

  8. This article is a start, but I still see no clear admission that Muslim on Christian violence exists or that it is even a problem in the Middle East. The mainstream media's position that Muslims can do no wrong when the facts speak otherwise continues to fuel anger and resentment in the West.

  9. And when the muslims succeed in throwing out Assad and they will the christians have no one to blame but themselves when they are persecuted. Don't expect regligious tolerance when you have supported a tyrant take it on the chin and don't complain when the new regime rounds up the enemies of the state.

  10. Most of the time, Oriental Christians back the wrong horse -- Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq. It's a shame.

  11. The news that Christians back Assad is not news at all for anyone who watched the Hezbollah take over Lebanon. For all the EU nations who want to protect their investments in Africa and the MidEast they pretend they are working to end his dominance. But no such respect is afforded Israel in the UN which listens to the glistening sun being baked on a magical oven by Abbas who btw is a proxy for Syria and Iran. How we detail our bedside manners will come back to roost. No one wants a fair weather friend as an ally.

  12. The focus on the threats to and difficult choices facing the Christians and
    other minorities in the region is welcome. Not exactly something you
    hear the American "Zionist Christian" movement emphasizing much, for example.

    OTOH, regarding #3's comment, it is worth remembering that historically -
    Iberia, for example, the Christians and Jews fared a whole lot better under
    Islamic rule than the Muslims and Jews did when the Christians came to
    power. There was widespread, essentially institutionalized religious toleration
    under Ottoman rule as well. So the current batch of ethnic cleansing extremists
    is not the only Muslim tradition out there.

    What nobody seems to focus much on is the context of overpopulation and
    environmental degradation in these countries, which is itself highly destabilizing.
    Syria, for example, has ten times the number of people it had in the mid 1930's
    and twenty five times what it was a hundred years ago - is there some way a trend
    like that is *not* going to end badly?/

  13. In my opinion, when these minorities ally themselves with these tyrants they are actually making it worse to themselves. Eventually these tyrants will be kicked out and I really fear of the morning after.

  14. This is a complicated issue. Back in the day of the Troubles in Northern ireland, the catholic minority was fearful of the violence against them by the Protestant majority. So, it was no wonder they supported the IRA. Howver, that said, they loathed the IRA, but needed them as protectors. We have a similar situation in Syria. Assad is a protector of sorts. But Assad is a tyrant. And the Islamists who could take over will be no better and will certainly be a threat to the Christians, who will not have anyone to protect them. What is needed is a secular state with constitutional separation of religion and state. Israel also should separate itself from Judaism and welcome all. Turkey, nominally a secular state, is culturally Islamic and they discriminate against Christians. The Turkish state really does nothing to permit complete freedom to the Christian minority.
    The Christians in Iraq do NOT approve of Assad's hold over the country. If the Islamic majority can gurantee their freedom to worship, build churches, accept converts, then the Christians will truly be free to throw off the yoke of Assad. But, in my cynical mind, the Islamists will do nothing of the sort and will follow Moahammad's dictum of complete domination by Islam. We are so naive regarding Islam and I suspect that many Muslims are also naive about what their own so-called holy book says. Islamic states, even the democratic ones, support the Islamic restrictions on conversion to Christianity. In Turkey they deny the Church the right to have seminaries to train priests and religious educators. Name one Islamic country that allows complete freedom of religion. None that I can think of.

  15. One more thing: will the Arab Spring lead back to an Arab Winter in which a family-dominated dictatorship is replaced by a religious dictatorship? Unless and until the new rulers guarantee complete religious freedom, the West should not give them a dime. In Egypt, the Coptic minority is in danger - and the Copts are an indigenous religion predating Islam. It is a wonder that they still exist at 10% of the population. Islamic rule is like the slaveholder who, while subjugating the slaves, says to them, "We provide this job for you and you don't show us gratitude".
    Until the new masters in this new Arab world show that they truly respect and protect complete religious freedom, the Arab Spring will be an illusion. And it may be needed that they will have to throw off the yoke of Islamic domination as well. Nobody wants to talk about that. But the West threw off the yoke of Christian suppression (both Catholic and Protestant) and progressed to where the Catholics and Protestants and Jews and Muslims, too, have complete freedom.

  16. The so called "Arab Spring" is part of the PNAC neocon agenda set in motion by the neocons that brought us "Iraq".

    PNAC's authors (around 25 people) were the same people who previously had written Israeli policy papers & later promoted the US invasion of Iraq with false information.

    The US & its puppet NATO have helped create & given blatant support to any insurgency in Muslim countries as per the neocon PNAC agenda which originated from those policy papers.

    This blatant interference by the US seems to NOW be accepted as US Policy.

    Religious Muslims & others are well aware of all this & a natural nationalist response will alley ALL Muslims ( 26% of the world's population ) in a Holy War as a response.

    It seems that this outcome is expected & will be disastrous for the the world .

  17. I actually thought this article was very nuanced in its depiction of the concerns of Christians and other minorities in the region. Unfortunately, the headline made it look as if all Christians back Assad.

  18. AKL Roger, you echo my thoughts. I was surprised to see a major newspaper finally covering the plight of Christians in Arab countries. The Syrian Christians have a right to be very afraid--just look at what is happening to non-Muslims in Egypt, for example. The U.S. needs to wake up to the dangers of combining religion, politics, and the justice system, not only abroad but here as well.

  19. As usual the NYT gives a slanted view towards the opposition, oblivious to the brutality of the protestors, most of whom are of Islamist background, and unconcerned about the legitimate rights of others, whom it has long termed or accused of as being 'thugs' . Minority members and even some opposing Sunnis, who openly differ in opinion, are being murdered, their bodies mutilated, and their family members expelled from their homes and even cities. You are supposed to have better knowledge of history and background of the news sources you are getting your news from, especially AlArabia(Saudi Wahabi) and AlJazeera(Muslim Brotherhood). As Christians in Syria, we do not prefer Assad because he is better than Islamists but we have lived in a golden era under his rule. Not 'many' but 95% of us support Assad.

  20. medieval religion is the core of all trouble and suffering...

  21. Oh, Really!!!! And neither our CIA nor our brilliant folks at the State Dept. noticed this when they clapped their hands in glee at the thought of overturning another Muslim emperor? Sure he's a bloody dictator. But then our Presidents have no shortage of blood and money on their hands, either. Shall we overturn Everyone?

  22. The minorities in the middle (Christian, Qubtic, Maronites, Alawites, and even Israeli Jews) have been manipulated for years to support tyrants and foreign powers. THE fear of Islam and Muslims have been used cleverly by the tyrants and foreign powers (most importantly the USA, Britain, France and Israel) to implement the policy of divide and conquer.

    No question about it that Islamist are a threat but they are a threat to all. This threat is often exaggerated and in comparison to what these tyrants have done during the past 50+ years; I am willing to take a chance with the unknown.

  23. A good reason for the US not to get involved. As we learned the hard way in Iraq, The taking out of a regime often leads to unintended consequences. Power imbalances lead to vengeful acts that can cascade out of control.
    Minorities often suffer from democracies where their voices are not heard. Kurds in turkey, Christians in Iraq, Jews in Iran, Hazaras in Afghanistan, Shias in Pakistan are a few examples.

  24. Perhaps due to the fact that the Assad regime (both father and son) came from a community that itself was rejected by the prevailing minority Sunnis, the Baath regimes were far more secular. This appealed to other minorities--not just Christians. In its quest for political legitimacy, the Assad regimes have expanded its base to try to include Sunnis as well--especially the business class. The destruction of Bashar does raise legitimate concerns from those who accepted limitations of their freedoms in exchange for religious tolerance and semblance of economic benefit. Whatever replaces the Baathists still will be faced with all the economic, diplomatic and political problems that the Assads faced. The history of pre-1970 Syria is not one that produces confidence that a democratic/secular state will succeed. This "new" Syria has all the elements of becoming once again a battle ground for outside forces to influence and control. With a very divided opposition and no political program guaranteeing life, liberty, religious freedom or economic opportunity, the dissidents "promises" are meaningless and chaos awaits.

  25. First they got rid of the jews in Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. Now is the turn of the Christians and the Christian Copts. What kind of a "Arab Spring" is that? Looks more like a deep freeze on a winter day. Imagine that the Christian minority is shrinking in Bethlehem. In Nazareth the muslims try to built a mosque on Christian land. Does Thomas Friedmann have a magic solution for that too?

  26. Only those who are misinformed and ignorant about Syria tend to believe that Christians would be persecuted if the tyrant and brutal Assad family was to be toppled. Add to this equation -of ignorance and misinformation- Islamphobia and one can clearly see the result of this equation; propaganda in its purest form. We cannot however deny the facts on the ground that some Christians are fearful, and some Muslims like Shiites are fearful as well. This is a natural phenomenon during this period of change. The autoctratic Socialist Baath party of Assad had ruled the area for over 50 years with iron fist supported by USSR, and later by China, N. Korea and Iran. The Alawites Assad family ruled over Syria with utter savagery for over 40 years and cultivated fear mongering amongst the populous. Orchestrated perpetual cold war with Israel, invaded Lebanon, massacred Palestinians and assasiniated intellectuals and thinkers who dared to speak against the regime. So now that Arab spring is upon us; Syrians joined the movement, and Chrsitians in Damascus were the first to demonstrate -in Bab Touma- and prpelled the uprising against the repressive regime. Now, other Christians in Aleppo are leading the revolt and other minorities in Deir Zor have joined. Supporters of Assad in Sydnaya only do so; for economic necessities. The Alawites have invested heavily in this quiet resort town and spent millions of Dollars on mansions and entertainments. Supporters of Assad in Damascus do the same where the billionairs of Syria reside, and disruption to their business environment could bring demise to their empire. So clearly, there are 2 sides to this; but for the NYT to address this article and publish it as it was an insightful and fact checking on current events in Syria, is indeed fact distorting.

  27. Let's hit the nail on the head: the only reason SOME Christians in Syria hope the Assad regime holds to power is their understandable and justifiable FEAR of Muslim persecution if and when the Assad dictatorship falls. Look at what happened in Iraq after the U.S. invasion: Muslim persecution of Christians, that was held at bay under the secular Hussein Baathist regime, skyrocketed - now to the point that Iraq has essentially been completely depopulated of Christians despite living in "Iraq" for two thousand years. Christians in Syria fear the same will happen to them if and when the Assad regime collapses.

    Regardless, Damascus will meet her fate. Isaiah 17.

  28. Imagine no religion, its easy if you try.

  29. I'd say these so called Christians are completely confused and without a clue. How could they in anyway stand by someone as brutally murderous as Assad? This is hypocrisy at it's best. What they should be doing is protesting the assault by Assad on innocent people. Its a weird twist - it is as if they are condoning his behavior. I guess it would be different if Assad was persecuting Syrian Christians.
    Truthfully, If I had to guess I would think that Assad told these people to stand up and back him or else he was going to kill them all. Other than that it doesn't make any sense and is not representative of Christian values.

  30. In July, I spoke to some Syrian ex-pats in my U.S. city and they pretty much demonstrated the fear reported in this article in their remarks and in their tendency to believe none of the media, but only what the Assad administration was reporting about events in Syria. (They had a pro-Assad demonstration going on, so I approached them.)

    I almost travelled to Syria in April as a tourist and still want to go there. I wanted to visit some of the ancient places of worship (Muslim and Christian) and attend services whose liturgies & music go back to the early Christian centuries. I am praying that whatever happens in Syria, all of the Syrian minority religious groups (including the Allawites) will be protected, and that the cultural and religious diversity that Syria has enjoyed for thousands of years will not be destroyed.

  31. Christians lived in Syria along with Muslims for over 1400 years (far longer than the 40 years of the current regime protection)there were always [rotected, they were protected during the various islamic ruling periods, They were not punished after the European crusade invasion.
    so any fear now is caused by media and politicians. I was born in Syria, lived there for 30 years, went to school with christian friends, played on the streets with them,and as a muslim I assure you we trusted each other. we lived in peace, and I guarntee you: people always will after getting rid of Assad

  32. I am very shocked with all these comments posted by people who clearly knows very little about the Syrian People. This is nothing but a sample of the confident of ignorants. Syria has been and will be a land for all muslim ,christan and all others. Assad and his gang are nothing but criminals that do not respect anything but their interest. Syria willbe a better place without that gang and the Christans should side with the freedom movement and shed away such baseless fears.

  33. The Christians lived and worshipped there for 1400 years as the story says. Then how come the wellbeing and survival of Christians and other minorities are predicated upon the survival of Asad regime? The minorities cannot have different future different from the majority. The Christians should embrace the positive change in Syria without succumbing to unproven fear. Should the majority sacrifice their future for what others think about them?

  34. First of all as per Islamic tenet Alawite are not Muslims.Here are three main laws of Islam (1)there is no GOD except ALLAH (2)Mohammad (A.S)is LAST last Messenger and Prophet.(3) Holy Quraan is the last heavenly book.Any sect or person who do not belief all these three tenet is not a Muslim.As per all the Twelver or other Shiite from India,Pakistan and Bangladesh which form about 50% of world population Alawites are Kafirs .

  35. Its sad to see Christians backing Assad. I guess they are afraid they will be next to feel his rath if they don't committ to him. Also sad. No mention or protest in the Times over the upcoming execution of a Christian Pastor in Iran. Well what can anyone expect from a news service that has an open forum of promoting Christian hatred in its opinion columns. Christians being put to death is not worth mentioning. If it was a Gay person being put to death. It would of been Headline news.

  36. I just returned from a mission trip to Lebanon where I met dozens of Syrian Christians and they are truly concerned for their safety if Assad is ousted. The graffiti in Syria by the "protestors" reads this way: "Alawites to the grave, Christians to the Cross". Syria and Lebanon are the last sanctuaries for Christians in the Middle East. It is quite easy to recommend as some have that "All Christians should leave Muslim countries". Financially & logistically this is impossible. They have a right to live in Arab communities and speak their language and their culture.

    By the way, I am a proud Iraq War veteran, but it is clear that our calculations there did not take the Christians into account. I pray that mistake is not made twice.

  37. One day the Christians will wake up to find that their so called leaders have lead them astray. Living without principles is not really living. Any group that supports dictators and their brutal ways to buy its own protection is in fact digging its own grave. To preserve themselves the Christians of Syria should adhere to the priciples of Christ. freedoms and human rights for every body in Syria should be their top priority. In order to be free every body should be free. If your neighbor is being tortured ,killed or maimed how can you live?Freedoms and human rights can not be parcelled and divided. They either apply to all or the do not apply at all . If the Christians of Syria or any other group for that matter think they can live in the shadow of a dictator who bestows on them fake protection,fake freedoms and fake human rights they are really mistaken. If that is the case then one has to ask what is the real meaning of Christianity? Should Christianity survive as a religion of values and principled behaviour?

  38. WHAT? collaborated with an evil tyrant kill his people to ensure your religion survive? what kind this religion? was Jesus teaching like that?

  39. Bachar and before him his father Hafez Assad are murderers, tyrants, dictators, and brutal killers. They are willing to kill anyone who stand in their way, be it Christian or Muslim. No one knows that more than Christians (yes Christian) Lebanese. Syrian forces, under the direction of both Assad and their Baathist regime, killed thousands of Lebanese from all religions: Christians, Druze, Shiite, and Sunnis. It does not matter what religion you are: if you even remotely disagree with the Baathist regime, they will go after you and kill you.

    I am a Maronite Christian Lebanese and I know first hand the killing mentality of the Syrian regime. I was in the Lebanese Forces who opposed the Syrian occupation of Lebanon for over 40 years (since 1970's). While I survived, some of my friends and family members actually died at the hands of Syrian bomb shellings of Christian free areas in Lebanon. Over 17,000 Lebanese were abducted and are still detained against their wishes in Syrian prisons. They are being tortured and are subject to atrocious treatment, including nail extraction, cigarette burning, balanco, the wheel, and others.

    So, when Syrian Christians say they support Bachar Assad, I can't help but feel sorry for such a closed-minded and poor-thinking short-term approach. The Assad regime will only protect you for as long as you agree with them. The moment you even dare opposing the slightest thing they do, they will come at you to destroy you, including torture, and assassination or murder. That is the case whether you are Christian, Alawi, Shiite, or Sunni. No one is safe. The Baathists do NOT tolerant any other viewpoint but their own.

    I have suggested to all my friends that Syrian Christian should be courageous enought to put their hand in the hand of their fellow Syrian Muslims, overthrown the Assad regime, and build a modern country based on tolerance (of all kinds) and demoratic principles. That could set the stage for positive outcome across all of the Middle East. Enough cowardness and protection of the Assad tyranny.

  40. To Helen #2 'I fear, it won't - 'cause the revolution is railroaded by the religious zealots every time .'

    Izzat a fact? And what do you base that on?

    The Iranian revolution was religious to begin with. Tunisia doesn't seem to be getting railroaded anywhere, and while all bets are still off in Egypt, I haven't seen the odds shortening for the Salafists.

  41. It's kind of bleakly amusing.

    I've read posts in defense of Qaddhafi, and now I'm reading posts in defense of Assad.

    Naturally, there were posts in defense of Mubarak. Some people's Islamophobia is so deep, and so twisted, that they will support anyone at all -- just so long as he promises to bring oppression to Muslims.

    You kind of missed the boat on Saddam Hussein. If only you'd realized in time -- you could have backed him as well.

  42. What has happened to the relatively tolerant and civilised religion that Mohammed founded? Take the Covenant of Umar, made between the Muslims and the Cristians when the Muslims captured Jerusalem (the text may not be authentic, but I believe the sentiments are):

    "Their churches shall not be occupied, demolished nor taken away wholly or in part. None of their crosses nor property shall be seized. They shall not be coerced in their religion nor shall any of them be injured.

    The people of Ilia (Jerusalem) shall pay Jizia tax (head tax on free non-Muslims living under Muslim rule) as inhabitants of cities do."

    Subject to the payment of a fairly modest tax, the Christians living in Muslim lands were free to practise their religion and were fully protected. Would that that were so to-day!