CAIRO – Worried of what follows the collapse of the current regime, Syria’s Christians are throwing their support behind President Bashar Al-Assad.
We are all scared of what will come next, Abu Elias, a Christian, told The New York Times on Wednesday, September 28.
Protests have escalated in Syria in recent weeks for an end to Assad’s 11-year rule.
At least 2,700 have been killed since the protests began in March, according to a UN account.
Syrian authorities blame most of the violence on armed groups backed by Islamists and outside powers who they say have killed more than 120 soldiers and police.
But some Christians are afraid that Assad’s successors might be worse.
Fear is spreading among us and anyone who is different, Abu Elias said.
Today, we are here. Tomorrow, who knows where we will be?
The concern is so deep that many Christians ignore the opposition’s calls for broader freedoms.
I am intrigued by your calls for freedom and for overthrowing the regime, wrote a Syrian Christian woman on her Facebook page, addressing Christian female protesters.
What does freedom mean? Every one of you does what she wants and is free to say what she wants.
Do you think if the regime falls (God forbid) you will gain freedom? Then, each one of you will be locked in her house, lamenting those days.
The majority of Syria’s 22.5 million population are Sunni Muslims.
Assad is from the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, which controls the ruling Baath party.
Christians constitute around 10 percent of the population, though some here say the share is actually lower these days.
For some Christians, Assad remains predictable in a region where Christians complain of discrimination in countries like Iraq.
He fled Iraq and came here, Abu Elias, looking at his friend, who arrived just a year earlier from Iraq.
Soon, we might find ourselves doing the same.
The worry of Assad’s fall even resonates among Christians in neighboring Lebanon.
Earlier this month, Maronite Catholic patriarch Bishara Boutros al-Rai urged Lebanese Maronites, the largest community of Christians in the country, to give Assad enough time to carry out a long list of reforms that he has promised.
We endured the rule of the Syrian regime. I have not forgotten that, Patriarch Rai said.
We do not stand by the regime, but we fear the transition that could follow. We must defend the Christian community. We, too, must resist.
But this fear is not shared by all Syrian Christians.
Some Christians have joined the ranks of the uprising against Assad’s regime.
Christians intellectuals like Michel Kilo and Fayez Sara populate the ranks of opposition figures.
Downplaying fears of a backlash after Assad’s fall, an activist in Damascus recalled how a Christian friend found himself hiding in the house of a conservative Muslim family in a town on the outskirts of Damascus.
He said his friend, who was taking part in an anti-regime demonstration, fled for cover after security forces opened fire at protestors, hiding in the nearest house.
When the tumult was over, the Christian friend thought of lying to the host about his identity, but he declined the idea, telling him that he was a Christian.To his surprise, the host and his family and all those hiding in the house began cheering for him. He had joined their ranks.
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