Persecutor, Not Protector: Assad Is Not Christians’ Savior

A year after forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began shooting pro-democracy demonstrators, sparking the war that continues today, I met with an alliance of Syrian Christians who had come to ask Washington for help in their struggle.

They wanted nothing more than freedom from the regime and were chillingly prescient in this 2012 conversation about the horrors to come, including the eventual outbreak of terrorist groups, if the world stood by and did nothing to stop Assad. Among these Christians were survivors of Assad’s pre-Arab Spring brutality, one man having languished for nine years as a political prisoner in Assad’s notorious jails, another having suffered torture and imprisonment as a student who spoke against the regime.

They raised their voices “to show that, no, the majority of Christians are not with the regime.” They emphasized that Christians along with Syria’s other sects were fighting and dying to oust Assad. They noted that in the first year of the revolution, Assad’s new constitution treated Christians “as second- or third-class citizens.” They were incredulous that any fellow Christians could sit back and watch Assad’s crimes, see children and neighbors murdered, and not stand with those suffering given the responsibility to stand up for the persecuted instead of the tormentor.

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