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Friday, December 20, 2013

Syria: the End of Christian Civilization?


The ousting of Christians from the countries of the Middle East is a sore spot of the modern world. Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Syria are in the midst of a civil war -- these are only some of the countries where Christian civilization is currently being destroyed. Experts contemplate the issue of who benefits from this and whether Christianity has a chance to survive in the Middle East.

The Syrian city of Homs, the third in the country in terms of population, has almost completely lost its Christian population. Thousands have been killed and about a million have fled. The situation is similar in Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Latakia and other cities. It is a real religious war, which is being carefully ignored by the world community, thinks Eugeniy Satanovsky, president of the Institute of Middle East:

"It is believed that religious wars are a matter of the past. But they have become a matter of the past only for those western politicians that are not paying attention to them. Religious wars are underway in Africa and in the Middle East. Syria is only one of the platforms of the rapid de-Christianization of that region. And since radical Islamists representing radical terrorist movements wage these wars, it is not in favor of the world community to interfere in them. Nobody has abandoned the double standards. Unlike the XIX century, when people in Europe were still worried about the genocide of Christians in Syria and Lebanon, today people just ignore it based on their economic and geopolitical interests".
Moreover, the open persecution Syria's Christian population is today more and more often becoming just a small coin in the civil war, which has been going on for three years. Last spring Islamists captured two high-ranking Orthodox metropolitans. One of them was a brother of the present Patriarch John X of Antioch. Up until now there is no clarity regarding the destiny of the two bishops. In early December some armed extremists took hostage Pelagia Sayyaf, the superior of the Saint Tecla Orthodox convent in Maaloula, together with several nuns. They are all still alive, but there are no guarantees of their release, says Nikolay Balashov, deputy chairman of the Department of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.

"It turned out that the rebels captured no less than 16 nuns. A few days after their capture a video shot by their captors appeared on the internet, which was showed to the viewers of the Arab Al Jazeera TV channel. In that video the nuns claimed that all was well with them and that they hoped to be set free soon. However, their facial expressions strongly contradicted the words they uttered. As far as we know, the Syrian government institutions are still negotiating with the armed group, which kidnapped the nuns. But the rebels demanded that many prisoners convicted for their terrorist activity or being accomplice to terrorists were set free from the country's prisons".
In Syria, Christian holy places are being erased from the face of the Earth. According to specialists, over 60 churches and monasteries have already been destroyed, many of which had had a history of almost two thousand years and had been unique monuments of world culture. Heads of all Christian churches of the world, including Russian Orthodox Church, are now actively urging for stopping the genocide of Christians in the Middle East and saving the Christian culture.

The Russian authorities are also paying special attention to this issue, the Orthodox priest continues:
"In July 2013 heads and representatives of all Orthodox churches of the world gathered together during the celebration the 1,025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus in Moscow. In a joint document they expressed their point of view on the issue of the preservation of Christians in the Middle East, specifically in Syria. That document was passed onto Vladimir Putin, Russia's president.

The actions of Russia's authorities regarding the conflict in the Middle East, specifically regarding the situation in Syria, bear their fruit. They have already succeeded in preventing a large-scale foreign intervention into the country, which would undoubtedly have led to great losses among the Christian population".
Together with the Russian Orthodox Church the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society, the oldest non-governmental organization in Russia, provides humanitarian aid to the citizens of Syria in need. Since the beginning of this year we have already sent over 70 tons of humanitarian cargo to the region, said Elena Agapova, vice president of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society, in her interview to the Voice of Russia.

"In March this year our Society decided to respond to the problem and provide help to the suffering people of Syria. We have sent humanitarian aid eight times. This past summer with our help two airplanes with aid of the Russian EMERCOM were sent to Latakia. Just recently, on December 10, we collected and shipped 10 tons of baby food, glucose and medication".
In October 2013 the Saint Paul and George International Foundation installed an unusual sculpture at one of the highest mountains in Syria called "I Came to Save the World". People say that the bronze monument of Jesus Christ blessing the world can be seen from Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel. It is a symbol of hope not only for peace in the entire Middle East region, but also for the salvation of the Christians and Christianity in that country.



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