For over two years, the civil war to depose Bashar al-Assad has torn the population of Syria apart. As chaos and destruction continue to reign, the Dignitatis Humanae Institute spoke to Elie Essa Kas Hanna, a Rome-based PhD archaeological student and seminarian of the Syriac Orthodox Church, on the damage inflicted on Syria’s beleaguered communities: “Until the outbreak of this war, we Christians, almost 7% of the Syrian population, enjoyed a life of relative harmony and coexistence within this majority Muslim nation. But now this conflict has created great divisions amongst my people; an overlooked terror is being waged against the remaining Christian community, with thousands dead and many more forced to flee our ancient homeland.”
Largely responsible for this systematic campaign of religious cleansing is the entry of radical Islamist groups from outside Syria, who seek to form its future in their own fundamentalist vision. In late April, two Orthodox Archbishops were kidnapped as they returned from a humanitarian mission; their fate or location has not been discovered. More recently, a Catholic Priest, Father Francois Murad, was executed by foreign jihadists within Syria. Armed gangs from the proscribed terror group Jabhat al-Nusra, a prominent and increasingly dominant part of the Syrian rebel forces, are now enforcing a fine, or ‘jizya’, on any Christians who refuse to convert or leave their lands in exile.
Hanna, who spent ten years working for Bishop Mar Gregorius, one of the two missing bishops of Aleppo, added: “It is not only the population, the cities and the villages that have been destroyed, but also the social fabric. It is this rupture of communities that must be first addressed; not the bricks and mortar of the buildings of state.”
Such atrocities have been overlooked by every significant world power, whose primary interest with the Syrian civil war to date has been to ascertain what strategic influence they can gain over the region. Rebels and loyalists become useful proxies to be used in wider geopolitical struggles; namely the rivalry between Shiite-controlled Iran and the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For these two states, the bloodshed in Syria is merely the latest outlet for their competing bids for regional hegemony.
Speaking on behalf of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, Lord Alton of Liverpool responded to growing calls in support of arming the Syrian Rebels: “This conflict should not be seen as a proxy war to take advantage of, but recognised for what it is, ‘a war against everything and everyone.’ Instead of seeking to garner some political advantage through the illicit provision of weapons to proscribed terror groups, Western resources would be far more beneficial to the Syrian people if we were to focus on the humanitarian relief efforts underway in neighbouring countries.”