Rebuilding Aleppo means rebuilding links between Christians and Muslims

AbpShahanSarkissian

The Archbishop of Armenians in Syria’s second-largest city concluded a week-long European tour with a visit to Paris on Wednesday, in which he argued that moving on from a fierce conflict meant fostering ties between communities and faiths.

Monsignor Chahane Sarkissian witnessed first-hand the Battle of Aleppo from its beginning in July 2012 to the intense fighting under siege of Syrian and Russian forces that led to its end on 22 December 2016.

Only about a third of the 45,000 Armenian Christians lived in the city before the conflict began remain today, and Sarkissian described how those who stayed are rebuilding their lives and encouraging others to return.

“We are trying our best to open the schools and then the small and medium businesses to give the Armenian community the possibility to continue there, instead of leaving as refugees to other places, including other parts of the world,” he said.

“We are the people of this country, not just as Christian communities at an ecumenical level, but also with the Muslims. The majority of the population of Syria is Muslim, but we live with them, and we hope to continue our life inside the city and the country.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM RFI

Among Allentown’s Syrians, mostly shock over Trump missile strike

MarkMakela22

Four years ago, much of Allentown’s largely Christian Syrian community opposed President Barack Obama’s threatened missile attack to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime for using chemical weapons on its own people.

They feel the same way about the attack Donald Trump launched Thursday night, people interviewed Friday suggest.

The U.S. is not the world’s policeman and has no right to insert itself, uninvited, into Syria’s internal affairs, said the Very Rev. Anthony Sabbagh, pastor of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Allentown, which is the cultural center of Allentown’s Syrian Christian community.

“His action is not going to strengthen the Syrian government, which is protecting the Christians,” Sabbagh said. “It will strengthen ISIS, which is killing the Christians.” And not just Christians, Sabbagh added, but nonradicalized Muslims in Syria.

Sabbagh said he believes the Assad government’s explanation that the poisonous gas that killed at least 86 men, women and children in rebel-controlled Idlib Province was released when its jets’ conventional missiles hit a terrorist chemical weapons stockpile.

“Syria is fighting ISIS on its own to the end,” Sabbagh said. “Russia is in Syria. Russia isn’t stupid either. They know they have the upper hand now. They would not use chemical weapons.”

Sabbagh said he voted for Trump thinking he would let the Syrian people determine their own fate, but he’s now regrets casting that ballot. In his mind, Assad is the only leader standing in the way of Islamic terror-fueled chaos in the Middle East.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MORNING CALL 

SYRIAN THEOLOGIAN: MINORITY IN SYRIA IS DEMOCRATS, LIBERALS OF ALL RELIGIONS

In the Arab world today, secularism, democracy and liberalism are the real minorities, writes Dr.Najib Awad, associate professor of Christian theology and the director of the International PhD Program at the Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut.

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In this article, originally published in Arabic in Lebanon’s Al-Mustaqbel daily, Awad makes the case for a new definition of minitory, “one that transcends religion, sect and ethnicity.” In Syria, he says, democrats, liberals and secularists are being “minoritized,” not due to religious affiliations or convictions, but because they are trying to develop a value system that differs from the prevalent norms.

Rooting his argument in French philosophy, Awad argues that “anyone who refused to shape their life and values according to the norms created and enforced by the Syrian regime was transformed into a ‘minority.’” 

Translation courtesy of Syria Direct’s Gavi Barnhard.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, both Syrians and international observers have been discussing the future of its minorities. Specifically, there is a new discourse among non-Sunni Muslims in Syria, primarily among Christians and Alawites, in which these groups do not identify with the Syrian people, but rather as minorities.

Syrian Christians have begun to reduce themselves to mere minorities in need of protection from the inevitable persecution that is to result if the regime falls. Even social media in these Syrian Christian communities indicate the prevalence of this minority discourse. Western and Arab countries that support the revolution see the Christians and the Alawites in Syria as “minorities” and reduce this complicated issue into a simple matter of “protection.”

From my observation, it doesn’t seem that anyone can actually explain what they mean by “minorities” in the Syrian context. It seems to me that everyone is working with the assumption that there is a single, agreed-upon meaning, however, I’m not sure that they realize that the meaning varies depending on its political, sociological and philosophical connotations.

In sociology and anthropology, “minority” can be defined by ethnicity, race, gender, sex, or age. However, the term carries very different meanings in a philosophical context. In modern philosophy, French philosopher Gills Deleuze and French psychiatrist Felix Guattari suggest that the term ‘minority’ suggests a state of flux, a process of becoming or happening: something which people transform into, or become, due to specific social, intellectual and ethical factors that “minoritize” them.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SYRIA DIRECT 

Syrian Christian Leaders Show Hope in Time of Despair

auto_jarjour1373304046“There will come a time when there will be no more Christians in Syria,” the Syrian Presbyterian Rev. Dr. Riad Jarjour, former General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches, warned recently onJanuary 27, 2014, at Washington, DC’s Heritage Foundation.  Jarjour explained Syrian Christians’ “stage of hopelessness” while “boxed in” by Muslim sectarian fighting in Syria’s civil war during two successive presentations by a Syrian Christian delegation.

The Heritage event and the previous day’s panel at McLean, Virginia’s St. John the Beloved Catholic Church clearly showed the “tragedy of the church in Syria” described at St. John by Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo.  Sookhdeo, chairman of theWestminster Institute and international director of Barnabas Aid, the Syrian delegation’s sponsors, described a “Gethsemane that leads to a potential Calvary.”  One-third of Syria’s two million Christians had fled the country during “perhaps the single greatest humanitarian disaster in the world today.”  During a slide show, Syrian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Bishop Dionysius Jean Kawak at St. John noted United Nations estimates of ten million Syrians needing assistance by the end of 2013.  Food, water, and electricity shortages afflicting the Syrian population marked a “lost generation.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGIOUS FREEDOM COALITION 

Syria Christians, Muslims may meet in summit

Christians and Muslims in Syria massAFP – Christian leaders from Syria and beyond are planning a summit involving Muslim representatives in a drive to use faith to spur peace efforts, the World Council of Churches said Thursday.

“We plan to have parallel consultations when the Geneva II meeting happens, so we can mobilise both Church leaders and other religious leaders for a commitment to a peace process in Syria,” WCC head Olav Fyske Tveit told reporters.

Asked whether he aimed to get Muslim clerics from inside Syria on board, he replied: “We’ll see what’s possible. But of course we’ll invite them, and other major Muslim partners, who come from the opposition of course, but also from neighbouring countries.”

The so-called Geneva II negotiations are meant to be based on talks in the Swiss city in June 2012, where world powers called for a Syrian transition government.

But the warring sides failed to agree on whether President Bashar al-Assad could play a role, and amid spiralling fighting the plan stalled.

In a renewed effort to hold Geneva II, UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on September 28.

Moves for a parallel faith summit followed talks among Church leaders, including from Syria, at a closed-door WCC meeting Wednesday attended by Brahimi.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FRANCE24.COM

Christians in Middle East: U.S. attack on Syria would be detrimental

Syrian-Christians-wait-for-the-crisis-to-end-0G1F9KOJ-x-largeNEW YORK (RNS) As the Obama administration considers a strike in response to recent chemical attacks, the head of a global evangelical group said Wednesday (Sept. 4) that Christians in the Middle East oppose military intervention in Syria.

“There is major consensus amongst the Christian leaders in this region that any military intervention would have a detrimental effect … on Christians in Syria,” wrote Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general/CEO of World Evangelical Alliance, in a letter to the State Department, the White House and the United Nation’s Security Council.

Tunnicliffe was attending a meeting of Christian leaders in neighboring Jordan that included California megachurch pastor Rick Warren, “Touched by an Angel” actress Roma Downey and her “Survivor” creator husband Mark Burnett.

The group, convened by Jordan’s King Abdullah II, met with about 70 Middle Eastern Christians to discuss the challenges facing Arab Christians.

“I couldn’t find a Christian leader at the conference who supported military intervention,” Tunnicliffe said in an interview. “The question is, how do you protect Christians if there’s a regime change?”

Tunnicliffe said two Syrian pastors told him independently that Christians have received threats from those who say a regime change would mean a takeover by Islamists who would force Christians out of the country.

Christian representatives from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan were present at the gathering, as well as a few Muslim clerics and academics. In his address, King Abdullah IIurged interfaith harmony.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE

Christians, Muslims Coexist Amid Chaos in Syria

General view of 1,500-year-old Saidnaya monastery, near Damascus, during light-up of 35-metre tall Christmas treeBy: Tareq al-Abed Translated from As-Safir (Lebanon).

Al-Qalamoun’s towns might be a model for peace and coexistence. It is here where people confront strife and where everyone stands together against the dangers that beset their homes and the region in general — from al-Tal, to Rankous, Saidnaya, Maaloula, Jirod, al-Qatifa, Yabrud, Nabak and Deir Attieh. These cities are quiet, but solid as a rock. They gave the world the Aramaic language, and to this day there are monasteries and historic churches in Saidnaya, Maaloula and Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi in Nabak. Those towns, along with neighboring towns in Lebanon, gave South America prominent leaders, such as former Argentine president Carlos Menem, originally from Yabrud.

Reaching Yabrud is not easy, as it is not off the highway that connects Damascus and Homs. This highway has been the site of clashes between the regime army and the opposition. Yabrud, a quiet town with a population of about 40,000, has succeeded in distancing itself from the lawlessness that has affected most of the country. There are no government soldiers in Yabrud. They are stationed on the road leading to town, which suffers from a lack of electricity, communications and fuel. Even so, Yabrud seems well organized. Its judicial body is able to resolve disputes, and its courts and the police are also functional. The armed opposition is abiding by the directives of the town council, so the town has succeeded in controlling the so-called revolution’s merchants — those who have taken advantage of the situation for their own interests. The town’s inhabitants refuse to replace one tyrant with another. It is worth noting that there is no trace whatsoever of tensions between Muslims and Christians in the town, despite the chaos that has jolted the country.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MONITOR