Since you have asked me
to join this discussion I shall share my thoughts. As I write this I am
in Erbil , Iraq preparing for a conference of Syrian Kurds and Syriac/Assyrian
Christians from the Al-Hassake region of Eastern Syria. I am working
with my partner and colleague Bassam Ishak, a Syrian Orthodox Christian
from Hassake and a prominent Syrian opposition leader.
We are taking an
innovative approach to protecting the Christian community in Syria by
bringing Kurdish and Christian leaders together to forge a new social
contract as a basis for a future together. We are focusing on the one
region of Syria where it is possible to do something. I have been
involved with Syria since 1990. I have conducted Faith-Based
Reconciliation processes inside Syria but found the Assad regime almost
impossible to deal with. They protect the Christians only out of using
them as a counterweight to the Sunni Muslim community. I met on several
occasions with the Grand Mufti, Sheik Hassoun, preached in his mosque in
Aleppo and had him hand deliver a letter to President Assad from me.
I have been involved with
the Syrian opposition leaders since November 2011 when I was in Cairo to
meet with Mohammed Morsi. Last year Bassam and I conducted two
conferences in Cairo for a broad coalition of senior, middle and
grassroots Syrian opposition leaders including leaders from both inside
and outside. The focus was on national healing and reconciliation.
The Syrian conflict has
evolved from a genuine revolution to a sectarian civil war. The choices
for Christians are difficult. I believe the Assad regime is genuinely
evil. It is the equivalent of one of the Mafia crime families. Torture
of citizens is routine and pervasive. The security apparatus makes Syria
a massive Level Six prison. On the other hand Syria or part of it
becoming an Islamist state is a very real possibility which would be a
chilling alternative. There are no good choices here. I pity Mr. Obama.
He has no good choices. His caution is merited.
Hope this helps.