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Throwing Syrian Christians "to the lions"?

Syrian rebels from an extremist group move into the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, deepening fears that this embattled Christian minority will be extinguished, and that U.S. military intervention will embolden Islamist fighters.

09/10/2013 Comments (6)

Syrian fighters from a radical Islamist group fighting the Assad government have moved into the Christian town of Maaloula, reinforcing the "worst fears" of Syrian Christians, who have already beeen fleeing their nation in droves. Today The New York Times reported that the rebel incursion in a Christan town where Aramaic is still spoken may also

complicate President Obama’s task as he struggles to convince Americans that a military strike against Mr. Assad will not strengthen Islamic extremists."

The Times reporter spoke with Mother Pelagia Sayaf, who leads the community at Mar Taqla, a monastery in Maaloula. Mother Pelagia confirmed 

 that the 53 nuns and orphans staying there had not been harmed and that the principal damage was shattered windows. Another nun said some of the fighters were local men who promised to protect the monastery.

The Times' story underscored the inconvenient truth that Christians are caught in the crossfire in Syria and any effort to destabilize Assad could make things even worse for them.  In recent weeks, the president has said very little about the plight of Syria's Christians, as he lobbied for international and Congressional support for U.S. military intervention.

On National Review, Victor Davis Hanson raised questions about the Obama's administration's proposed plan for military intervention, and its ability to avoid making the situation worse. 

To support the bombing of Syria, we must assume both that Obama has more knowledge of insurgencies than he did in relation to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya and that suddenly he has more stomach for intervening and sorting out good from bad. Unfortunately, that seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, Mother Pelagia told the Times

“If Maaloula survives, it will be a miracle.” 

UPDATE 9/10 9:39 PM: President Obama delivered an address to the nation that deffended his proposed military strike on Syria to deter future use of WMDs, but also asked Congress to delay debate on that plan until there was time to evaluate Russia's proposal to place Syria's chemical weapons stockpile under international control. Obama spoke  about upholding U.S. ideals, but did not mention religoius freedom, or the plight of reliigous minorities in the Middle East. What would Mother Pelagia make of his argument? 

On National Review, Nina Shea, executive director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom,  warns that if Assad falls, reprisals against Christians (seen as allied with the government) could come swiftly.

The American people and their political representatives must raise the issue of reprisals against Christians and other minorities. It is clear that neither our allies on the ground nor Prince Bandar and their other benefactors in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf care.

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About Joan Desmond

Joan Desmond
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Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in Menlo Park, Ca, in the San Francisco Archdiocese.