Mourners carry the coffins of three men into a church for their funeral in Damascus, Syria, Sept. 10. The Christian men were killed during a raid by opposition fighters on Maloula village northeast of Damascus. (CNS photo/Khaled al-Hariri, Reuters)
recently asked an anonymous, young, Syrian Christian studying in
America what he thought the best solution for Syria was.
foreign fighters are bad, but so is Assad,” he said, “Nevertheless,
there is hope among the youth that somehow political change will be
better than what we have had in the past.” Yet he could not
articulate what that change would look like. He put no hope in Putin
or Obama and thought that American foreign policy in the Middle East
has been detrimental for over a decade.
Syrian Christians think the devil they know is better than the devil
they don’t. Despite his checkered history, Assad, an Alawite
minority, has a reputation for protecting religious minorities in
Syria, including Christians.
young Syrian also noted that the present turmoil is exacerbated by
the presence of foreign fighters roaming the Middle East Muslim
mercenaries who have no day to day connection with the people they
does seem our Israel-American
foreign policy in the Middle East has proved disadvantageous to
native Christians who are wedged between a rock and a hard place. The
magnitude of recent Christian persecutions in the Middle East has
been staggering and it appears that, for all intents and purposes,
our politician’s solutions for peace and stability in the Middle
East have no hope of success. UN governments are trying to pick sides
in Syria, for example, but the end goals are conflicting and often
absurd because these goals are rooted in ideologies
which are foreign to Islam.
Francis has put a heavy emphasis on spiritual
as well as diplomatic solutions to chaos in the Middle East.
Christians are constantly tempted to exhaust their energies in
political protest instead of prayer and Christian witness. Pope
Francis reminded Christians over the weekend that following Jesus
means “sharing His merciful love with others.”
past week Christians
in Maaloula were murdered for refusing to convert to Islam. I
have no doubt these courageous believers were supported by the
prayers offered for Syria on September 7th.
Their martyrdoms will be remembered and will bear fruit in Syria in
the coming years. They are not alone. 273
Christians die for their faith every day around the world. This
is a sign of the Church’s fidelity, not its decay.
century, Tertullian claimed the blood of the martyrs would be the
seed of Christians. His words have been reechoed by the Church for
centuries because we know them to be true. Who would have thought,
during the empire wide persecution of Christians under Emperor
Diocletian in A.D. 303-304, that a decade later Christianity would
become a legal religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine and the
predominant religion of the empire by the close of that century?
in the Middle East need our prayers for courage in the face of
martyrdom. Non-Christians of the Middle East need our prayers to
recognize the human dignity and fullness of life that comes with
Christianity. As Pope Francis said in his September
“we move forward with prayer…”