United States Fueling Instability in Syria

A growing number of Syrian Christian leaders are traveling to the United States to plead with lawmakers to stop sending arms to the rebels. The most recent visitor is the Patriarch of the Church of Antioch, His Beatitude Gregorios III, who is based in Damascus.

For the first three years of the civil war, Syria’s Christian leaders have not been frequent visitors to the U.S., in part fearing reprisals when they return to Syria, but also because they have been reluctant to engage in what they see as political issues. But with the civil war now in its fourth year, they are taking a more public stance. Visiting Washington, D.C., in January of this year to speak about the war, Bishop Armash Nalbandian, primate of the Armenian Church of Damascus, said that after he witnessed the bombing of the St. John of Damascus School, which killed nine children, he did not care anymore about his own safety. He said he will now do and say anything to help end the war.

But speaking out against the war puts church leaders in a difficult position. They want to protect their congregations and their nation, but they then face accusations of supporting the Assad regime. His Beatitude Gregorios said, “Everybody asks me, ‘Are you for or against the regime?’ I tell them, I am not for or against the regime; I am not for or against the opposition. I am for stability.” The complaint that many in Syria now have is that while Assad is far from an ideal ruler, they fear more what would follow in the wake of his downfall. The Patriarch continued, “All the churches in the Middle East are saying the same thing: ‘We want stability, but Europe and the United States are ignoring us.’”


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