Syrian Christians fear they might pay for the fall of the regime


Elie Klimos does not consider himself a supporter of the Syrian regime.
The young jurist, like every young man of his generation, is aware of the political and military price that the Christians in Lebanon have paid because of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

He speaks with great enthusiasm about his personal struggle against the Syrian presence in his country.

He also admits that the Syrian people have the right to revolt against the dictatorial regime, but he shares the Maronite patriarch’s fear of seeing Christians pay for the fall of the Syrian regime.

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai said that Assad was “open-minded” and should be given more chances to implement the reforms he already launched. He also said that “there were fears over a transitional phase in Syria that might threaten the Christians of the Middle East."

Klimos finds it crucial not to interfere in Syrian affairs and believes that the Christians must support their Patriarch.

“Of course we are going to be afraid that predecessors and extremists will come, because the entire region is boiling and we cannot bear any more fundamentalists of any kind or type or party,” he said.

Fearing the arrival of Islamic fundamentalists to power is a recurrent argument used by Christian political parties who supported the Patriarch statement, mainly the Free Patriotic Movement, which was one of the fiercest opponents of Damascus and probably one of the parties that suffered most from the Syrian tutelage in Lebanon, before allying with Hezbollah.

“We are the ones who suffered the most from the Syrian regime and we are not defending it, but we have our concerns,” said Farid al-Khazen, deputy of the Free Patriotic Movement.

“As for the Christian parties who criticized the Patriarch’s statement, their statements varied from those who believed that the Patriarch’s words encourage Christians to carry weapons and those who believed that it does not reflect the historical positions of the Church and that Christians, as are all Lebanese, are anxiously following the developments in Syria., “ he added.

“The situation does not have any political dimensions, like supporting any political regime or anything. The situation is about expressing or assuring the concern about to what happened in the region, especially in Iraq,” Khazen said.

However, this does not mean that Christians are linking their fate to the fate of dictators in the region, as they are aware that what has happened in Iraq and Egypt, and even in Syria, does not apply to the Lebanese situation, because the Christians in Lebanon are not a minority and form a political force that always knew how to defend its existence.

“The talk about fundamentalism has no sense, because there is Sunni fundamentalism just as there is Shiite fundamentalism,” Simon Karam, a lawyer close to the former Patriarch, said. “Armed Hezbollah is the biggest threat,” he added.

“Islamic fundamentalism is not specific to a certain Islamic sect. Hezbollah is fundamentalist, and its fundamentalism is deeply rooted and armed. Syrian are rising up and they have only themselves to rely on; supporting them is a must,” Karam said.

While Lebanese Christians’ opinions are divided, the Christians in the Syrian opposition did not simply sign denouncing statements but also declared war against the Patriarch’s statements.

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