The Times of London reported Thursday that “the West and Gulf states are funding a new military offensive by rebel forces around Damascus in an effort to throw the Assad regime on to the back foot before a second round of Syria peace talks. The assault marks an attempt by the Free Syrian Army and its allies abroad to reassert control after months of rebel infighting.” The chief victim of this funding, however, may not be Bashar Assad, but the nation’s Christians.
The report notes that the Obama government “has established a training base for the FSA, say rebel field commanders. It includes $57 million in cash to pay the rebels.” The U.S. is also supplying weapons: “late last month, the US approved a supply of a big shipment of arms to rebels in Jordan.” This aid is supposed to go to the “moderates” of the Free Syrian Army in order to help them counter Syrian rebel forces that are aligned with al Qaeda.
On the ground in Syria, however, the distinctions between the various anti-Assad groups are often not easy to discern, especially since U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar have “channelled the lion’s share of funding and weapons to hardline religious factions such as the Islamic Front,” and the rebel factions are not fighting each other, but are all fighting against Assad. Another U.S. ally, Turkey, has likewise aided the anti-Assad forces.
All these groups are not just battling Assad; they’re also fighting against the nation’s Christians. This is true not just of the al Qaeda groups, but of the Obama-backed Free Syrian Army as well. In July 2013, Free Syrian Army fighters entered the Christian village of Oum Sharshouh and began burning down houses and terrorizing the population, forcing 250 Christian families to flee the area. Worthy News reported that just two days later, Free Syrian Army rebels “targeted the residents of al-Duwayr/Douar, a Christian village close to the city of Homs and near Syria’s border with Lebanon….Around 350 armed militants forcefully entered the homes of Christian families who were all rounded-up in the main square of the village and then summarily executed.”
In September 2013, a day after Secretary of State John Kerry praised the Free Syrian Army as “a real moderate opposition,” the FSA took to the Internet to post videos of its attack on the ancient Syrian Christian city of Maaloula, one of the few places where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken.
This is just the faction Obama is backing. The rebel factions funded by our “allies” Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey behave even worse toward the Christians.
Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham, who lives in Damascus, explained in October 2013 that the persecution was the result of the perception that the Syrian Christians supported the Assad regime: “Some people are saying that we Christians are the friends of the regime, but we are not, we are just ordinary Syrians, and we pray for all. Besides, even if we are for the regime, that is our right as free people.”
Back in May 2011, the Patriarch wrote to Western leaders asking them not to intervene in Syria: “Our Arab countries are not ready for revolutions, and not even for democracy of the European kind and model. I am asking the West not to encourage revolutions unconditionally here and there in the Arab world.”
This request went unheeded; yet now the reason why it was so sagacious is abundantly clear. Late in January a delegation of Syrian Christian leaders went to Washington at the invitation of the Westminster Institute and Barnabas Aid in order, according to a statement issued by the Westminster Institute, “to raise awareness of the humanitarian catastrophe that the Syrian conflict has become, and to explore concrete steps that can be taken by the United States to help end the crisis and to protect Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in Syria.”
According to a Judicial Watch report, at least one of the meetings could have gone better: “Senator McCain, an Arizona Republican, evidently doesn’t want to hear negative stories about the rebels he’s working to arm. So he stormed out of a closed-door meeting with the Syrian clergy officials last week….McCain marched into the committee room yelling, according to a high-level source that attended the meeting, and quickly stormed out. ‘He was incredibly rude,’ the source told Judicial Watch, ‘because he didn’t think the Syrian church leaders should even be allowed in the room.’”
Was McCain lashing out so disgracefully in an attempt to silence his guilty conscience? If he doesn’t have a guilty conscience, he should. He bears primary responsibility for the fact that Obama’s avidity to arm and fund the Free Syrian Army enjoys bipartisan support. There is no national political figure in Washington who is speaking up for the Syrian Christians or pointing out that all the Syrian rebel factions are Islamic jihadists who have vowed to establish an Islamic state in Syria after Assad falls – a state that will impose Islamic law and institutionalize discrimination against and harassment of Christians in a state where they have enjoyed relative freedom and tolerance for decades.
Through all this, American Christian leaders remain largely silent, either ignorant of or indifferent to the suffering of their brethren in Syria and all over the Middle East, and sanguine about the role of the U.S. government in abetting and perpetuating that persecution. One hopes that this will not continue. The only hope for Middle Eastern Christians may be for their American coreligionists to realize before it is too late that to shrug their shoulders and ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” does not absolve them of the responsibility to stand for justice even when it is difficult, or harms the “dialogue” they are enjoying with Muslim leaders in this country.
Christians are embattled and defensive in Obama’s America today, but that is no excuse. Churches of all denominations and Christian groups need to pressure their elected representatives to end this madness of aiding the Syrian jihadist rebels. If those rebels prevail, the Christians of Syria will not be their only victims; the reverberations of that victory will ultimately be felt even in the comfortable suburban churches outlying America’s cities. For the global jihad will not, having toppled Assad, hang up its weapons and retire on its laurels. It will, instead, turn to fresh Infidel targets, and not exempt from its wrath fond and foolish Infidels like John McCain, who probably thinks that the FSA owes him a lot of favors and will help him out when the chips are down. It won’t. “The appeaser,” said Winston Churchill, “is the man who feeds a crocodile in the hope that it will eat him last.” The jihadis may eat McCain and all their other Washington friends last. But eat them they will.