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Saint David of Gareja (Tsminda Daviti Garejeli) is one of Georgia’s favourite saints and associated with the complex of monasteries in Georgia’s rugged southern Kvemo Kartli badlands. My favourite part of the country….

 

Saint David was one of Georgia’s Thirteen Assyrian Fathers, of whom we have written before regarding Saint Joseph of Aleverdi in Kakheti. Settling in Georgia from Mesopotamia in the 6th Century, they were responsible for the development of monasticism in Iberia after its official conversion to Christianity, but while Persian Zoroastrianism and native animism were still widely practiced in Georgia. In icons, he is widely pictured in the company of deer, with whom he shared the wilderness in his early years. Today is his Saint’s Day.

david icon deer

Saint David of Gareji was Syrian by birth. The future ascetic became a disciple of Saint John of Zedazeni and journeyed with him to Georgia. Saint David and his spiritual son Lucian settled on a mountain above Tbilisi, the capital of Kartli.

At that time Kartli was constantly under threat of the Persian fire-worshippers. Saint David would spend entire days in prayer, beseeching the Lord for forgiveness of the sins of those who dwelt in the city. When he was finished praying for the day, he would stand on the mountain and bless the whole city. Once a week Saints David and Lucian would go down into the city to preach. A church dedicated to Saint David was later built on the mountain where he laboured.

Saint David’s authority and popularity alarmed the fire-worshippers, and they accused him of adultery, in an attempt to discredit him in the eyes of the people. As a “witness” they summoned a certain expectant prostitute, who accused him of being the child’s father. Hoping in God, the holy father touched his staff to the prostitute’s womb and ordered the unborn child to declare the truth. From out of the womb the infant uttered the name of his true father.

Outraged at this slander, the bystanders savagely stoned the woman to death. Saint David pleaded with them to stop, but he was unable to placate the furious crowd. Deeply disturbed by these events, Saint David departed the region with his disciple Lucian.  The holy fathers settled in a small cave in the wilderness and began to spend all their time in prayer. They ate nothing but herbs and the bark of trees. When the herbs withered from the summer heat, the Lord sent them deer. Lucian milked them and brought the milk to Saint David, and when the elder made the sign of the Cross over the milk it was miraculously transformed into cheese.

Shaken by the holy father’s miracle, Lucian told him, “Even if my body rots and wastes away from hunger and thirst, I will not permit myself to fret over the things of this temporal life.”

The fathers kept a strict fast on Wednesdays and Fridays—they ate nothing, and even the deer did not come to them on those days.

A frightful serpent inhabited a cave not far from where they lived and attacked all the animals around it. But at Saint David’s command the serpent deserted that place.

Once local hunters were tracking the fathers’ deer, and they caught sight of Lucian milking them as they stood there quietly, as though they were sheep. The hunters paid great respect to Saint David and, having returned to their homes, reported what they had seen.

Soon the Gareji wilderness filled with people who longed to draw nearer to Christ. A monastery was founded there, and for centuries it stood fast as a center and cornerstone of faith and learning in Georgia.

After some time Saint David set off on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He entrusted Lucian to fulfil his responsibilities at the monastery and took some of the other brothers with him. When the pilgrims were approaching the place called the “Ridge of Grace,” from which the holy city of Jerusalem becomes visible, Saint David fell to his knees and glorified God with tears. Judging himself unworthy to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, he was satisfied to gaze upon the city from afar.

Then he stood at the city gates and prayed fervently while his companions entered the Holy City and venerated the holy places. Returning, Saint David took with him three stones from the “Ridge of Grace.” That night an angel appeared to the patriarch of Jerusalem and informed him that a certain pious man named David, who was visiting from afar, had taken with him all the holiness of Jerusalem.

The angel proceeded to tell him that the venerable one had marched through the city of Nablus, clothed in tatters and bearing on his shoulders an old sack in which he carried the three holy stones. The patriarch sent messengers after the stranger with a request that he return two of the stones and take only one for himself. St. David returned the two stones, but he declined the patriarch’s invitation to visit him. He took the third stone back with him to the monastery, and to this day it has been full of the grace of miraculous healing.

After Saint David brought the miraculous stone from Jerusalem, the number of brothers at the monastery doubled. The venerable father ministered to all of them and encouraged them. He also visited the cells of the elder hermits to offer his solace. In accordance with his will, a monastery in the name of Saint John the Baptist was founded in the place called “Mravalmta” (the Rolling Mountains).

The Lord God informed Saint David of his imminent departure to the Kingdom of Heaven. Then he gathered the fathers of the wilderness and instructed them for the last time not to fall into confusion, but to be firm and ceaselessly entreat the Lord for the salvation of their souls.

He received Holy Communion, lifted up his hands to the Lord, and gave up his spirit.

St. David’s holy relics have worked many miracles: approaching them, those blind from birth have received their sight. To this day, believers have been healed of every spiritual and bodily affliction at his grave.

From “Lives of the Georgian Saints” by Archpriest Zacharaiah Machitadze, Saint Hermans Press.

 

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As our brothers and sisters from the Orthodox communities of the Greek Diaspora, and our Romanian friends, prepare to celebrate Christmas tonight, and we in Georgia prepare for the Feast of the Nativity on January 7, we should pray for our fellow Christians in Syria who are facing persecution and martyrdom for their faith at the hands of Jihadists. Home to Christian communities from Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Melkite and Assyrian Catholic, Nestorian and Protestant congregations, over 2.5 million Christians face a very uncertain future in the geographic cradle of the Christian faith.  The connection between Syria and Georgia is significant, as the Thirteen Assyrian Fathers were very significant evangelists to the Georgians during the Persian occupation of Georgia in the 6th century, and are widely venerated today for their energy in establishing new temples and monastic centres while Georgia was governed by Zoroastrians hostile to the Christian faith.

Armenia has been resettling many Syrians of Armenian descent in Yerevan as refugees, but in Georgia most Syrians living here are business migrants rather than refugees. Georgia being well acquainted with the horrors of war and internal displacement of innocent people, it is to be hoped that Immigration officials are not overzealous in excluding Christian families seeking temporary respite here.

This press release from the Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama, Mor Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, documents the largest massacre of Christians in the Middle East of the past decade, and the near-destruction of their village. The Syriac Orthodox Church is of the Oriental Orthodox Community, in communion with the Coptic, Ethiopian and Armenian churches. Please keep these people in your prayers as you enjoy your Christmas festivities.

Devastating Images & Report from the Christian Town of Sadad in Syria – Exclusive - News | Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE

My brothers and sisters

The peace of the Lord be with you:

I present to you a glimpse of the events which have overtaken Sadad over the weeks since its occupation by armed men and terrorists.

1- Sadad is a small Syriac town of 15,000 people located 160 km from Damascus

2- It has 14 churches and a monastery with four priests and five halls for social activities and celebrations.

3- Most citizens are poor, because of the lack of natural resources

4- They live in the middle of the desert, and it is a harsh, dry climate, where no rain falls..

5- The number of families which immigrated to Sadad from the different villages and provinces, owning to the Syrian crisis, is 600.

6- The terrorists entered Sadad on 21-10-2013 and occupied it for a week.  On 28-10-2013 they were driven out and some of them were killed.

7- 2,500 families fled Sadad because of this occupation by the terrorists. They spread out between Damascus, Homs, Fayrouza, Zaydal, Maskane, and al-Fhayle.

8-  1,500 families were held as hostages and human shields for a week, amongst them children, old men, young men, and women.  Some of them fled, walking 8 km from Sadad to al-Hafer to find refuge.

9-  Some were killed and some were threatened by the bullet, by strangulation, execution and with the destruction of their houses. 45 civilians were martyred including women, children and men.

Devastating Images & Report from the Christian Town of Sadad in Syria – Exclusive - News | Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE

10 – 10 persons have gone missing, and the number of injured is 30

11-All the homes of Sadad have been robbed, their possessions looted, by all the forces which entered Sadad.  The commercial premises shared the same fate.

12- They destroyed the churches and stole some of their possessions, money and ancient books, and graphitized insults  against Christianity.

All government, school, and council buildings were destroyed, along with the post office, the hospital and clinic, as well as  the Finance and the Agricultural Ministry branches.

14- The crisis in Sadad led to the forced migration of some 500 families of al-Hafer, and the looting and destruction of some of their houses.

15- The families of Sadad fled from their town only in the clothes they were wearing, and anyone who brought with him money, gold or documents was robbed of them.

16- Our children have lost their future because of the destruction of the schools, the nursery, and the youth centre.

Photographs of the devastation done can be seen here via Devastating Images & Report from the Christian Town of Sadad in Syria – Exclusive – News | Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE.

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In addition to the cycle of Lenten services we are experiencing, commemorations of Georgian saints continues. Saint Demetre the Devoted, known to the world as Demetre II of Georgia, was a Bagratid king ruling with the approval of Georgia’s Mongol overlords at the time. He distinguished himself in the military service of the Mongol Khan, serving in Aqaba Khan’s campaigns against the Mameluke rulers of Egypt, and he was commended for his role in the Second Battle of Homs, where Georgian and Armenian troops prevailed over well-armed Mameluke troops. Ironically, the Mamelukes were in many cases Muslims of Georgian and Circassian origin, so Georgian fought Georgian on Syrian soil.

Saint Demetre was a controversial character at the time as he engaged in bigamy, maintaining up to three wives at one time (although of course only canonically married to one). Despite his personal failings, his self-sacrifice at the end of his life endeared him to the Georgian people and he was later canonised as a saint.

From “Lives of the Georgian Saints”

Saint Demetre the King, also called “the Devoted,” was a great-grandson of Holy Queen Tamar. God sent St. Demetre many tribulations during his childhood, thus encouraging him in the Faith from an early age. Demetre was still an infant when the Mongols killed his mother, the pious Queen Gvantsa. His father, King Davit V (1258–1269), died when Demetre was just ten years old.

When he reached the age of twelve, the royal court sent him to the Mongol ordu (the military camp and headquarters of the Mongols. This particular camp of the Ilkhanid Mongols lay in Mughan of Azerbaijan.), to the ruler Abaqa Khan (1265–1282) (ruler of the Ilkhanid Mongols (descendents of Qubilay Khan’s brother Hulegu).

As the Georgians were under Mongol dominion, they asked Abaqa Khan to proclaim Demetre king, and their request was honored.

Filled with virtue, King Demetre ruled the nation in wisdom and kindness. At night he would go out in search of the poor, the infirm, and the orphaned to distribute his wealth to them. The king took advantage of comparatively peaceful periods to build and restore churches and monasteries and to strengthen fortifications.

Many of King Demetre’s lofty goals, however, were never realized, because the khan was constantly calling the Georgian soldiers to arms. A vast number of Georgia’s finest soldiers fought and perished in the khan’s battles. Soon Georgia was exhausted from battle and the sacrifice of her sons’ blood in the wars of foreign nations.

Internal strife began to tear at the Georgian people, and in desperation they began to pillage the lands and villages that belonged to their own Church.

During this difficult time, Demetre yielded to a temptation. Although already joined in a marriage of political convenience, he abducted Natela, the daughter of southern Georgia’s ruler, Beka Jakeli. She bore Demetre a son, whom they named Giorgi. He would later be honored with the title Giorgi V “the Brilliant” (1314–1346).

After the death of Abaqa Khan, his brother, Ahmad Tegüder (1282–1284), was proclaimed khan. In the second year of his reign, Ahmad’s brother, Qongurdam, plotted to overthrow him but failed. A short time later, Abaqa Khan’s son, Arghun (1284–1291), rose up against his uncle and seized the throne. Finally, Bugha Chingsang, the khan’s prime minister, organized a plot against Arghun. On January 17, 1289, Bugha Chingsang was executed along with his fellow conspirators.

Demetre, who had been on friendly terms with the khan, was now summoned to the khan’s ordu as a suspected member of the plot.

King Demetre immediately surmised the reason for this summons: “The khan is very angry and has called me to him,” he told his court. “I am certain he intends to do me evil, but my kingdom will lie defenseless before him if I do not go. How many Christians will die or become his slaves? How many churches will be laid to waste? Truly my life cannot be so valuable that I could live and bear this sin while many Christian souls are left to perish. It is my wish to go to the khan. God’s will be done: if I am killed, I will be certain that my country is saved!”

The royal court tried with all its might to convince Demetre that it was foolish to go, meet certain death, and leave the country without a ruler. Catholicos Abraam alone supported King Demetre’s decision and advised him, “If you sacrifice your own life for your nation, we, the bishops of this land, will bear your sins, and will pray to God that you be numbered among the holy martyrs. For the Lord Himself said, Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). And if it is good for a man to lay down his life for just one neighbor, how profitable is it for a man to die for the sake of many?”

“Demetrius II’s Farewell to His People” by Henryk Hrynievski

Upon hearing these words, the king rejoiced exceedingly and began to prepare for his journey to the Mongol ordu. He took with him Catholicos Abraam, a certain priest Mose, his son Davit, and several members of his court. At the ordu the Mongols could find no fault in the young Georgian king, but they imprisoned him nevertheless. Then a group of Georgian faithful forced their way into the prison to see him and offered to help him escape. The king was deeply moved by their compassion, but nevertheless he told them, “I knew from the beginning the death I would suffer, and I offered my life for this nation. If I escape now, the nation will be destroyed. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36).”

The khan ordered his execution. Fully prepared to meet death, King Demetre prayed fervently, received the Holy Gifts, and gave up his soul to the Lord. Those present witnessed a divine miracle: the sun grew dark and an ominous gloom enshrouded the whole city.

The holy relics of the Royal Martyr Demetre were guarded until the catholicos and the priest Mose secretly retrieved the body and, with the help of a group of Tbilisi fishermen, returned the king to his homeland. He was buried in Mtskheta, in the burial vault of his forefathers at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.”

From “Lives of the Georgian Saints” by Archpriest Zakaraiah Machitadze, Saint Herman of Alaska Press.

 

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Saint Luke is one of the most significant saints in the Church; his Feast is held today. As a Greek medical doctor from Antioch, schooled in Greek medicine, art and philosophy, his background was quite different from the many Jewish peasants and fisherman whom Christ called to serve. Saint Luke was a witness to Christ’s Resurrection on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24.13) , and became a constant companion to Saint Paul the Evangelist in his extensive travels. It is hard to imagine a more “odd couple” to work together as evangelists for so many years, one formerly a Pharisee, the other an affluent Greek physician, but obviously their talents were complementary and they were very effective at spreading the faith amongst both Jews and Gentiles throughout the Roman Empire.

He is attributed as being the first iconographer, painting under the direction of the Virgin Mary.

He is most widely known as the author of the Gospel of Saint Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Icons of the saint usually show him as a well-dressed professional gentleman in Greek garb, carrying a copy of the Holy Gospel.

11th Century Georgian Miniature of Saint Luke

The Holy Disciple and Evangelist Luke, was a native of Syrian Antioch, a Disciple from amongst the Seventy, a companion of the holy Apostle Paul (Phil. 1: 24, 2 Tim. 4: 10-11), and a physician enlightened in the Greek medical arts. Hearing about Christ, Luke arrived in Palestine and here he fervently accepted the preaching of salvation from the Lord Himself. Included amidst the number of the Seventy Disciples, Saint Luke was sent by the Lord with the others for the first preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven while yet during the earthly life of the Saviour (Lk. 10: 1-3). After the Resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Saints Luke and Cleopas on the road to Emmaus.

The Disciple Luke took part in the second missionary journey of the Apostle Paul, and from that time they were inseparable. At a point when all his co-workers had left the Apostle Paul, the Disciple Luke stayed on with him to tackle all the toiling of pious deeds (2 Tim. 4: 10-11). After the martyr’s death of the First-Ranked Apostles Peter and Paul, Saint Luke left Rome to preach in Achaeia, Libya, Egypt and the Thebaid. In the city of Thebes he finished his life in martyrdom.

Tradition ascribes to him the writing of the first icons of the Mother of God. “Let the grace of He born of Me and My mercy be with these icons”, – said the All-Pure Virgin in beholding the icons. Saint Luke painted likewise icons of the First-Ranked Apostles Peter and Paul. His Gospel was written by Saint Luke in the years 62-63 at Rome, under the guidance of the Apostle Paul. Saint Luke in the preliminary verses (1: 3) spells out exactly the aim of his work: he recorded in greater detail the chronological course of events in the framework of everything known by Christians about Jesus Christ and His teachings, and by doing so he provided a firmer historical basis of Christian hope (1: 4). He carefully investigated the facts, and made generous use of the oral tradition of the Church and of what the All-Pure Virgin Mary Herself had told him (2: 19, 51).

In the theological content of the Gospel of Luke there stands out first of all the teaching about the universal salvation effected by the Lord Jesus Christ, and about the universal significance of the preaching of the Gospel [Lat. “evangelum” with Grk. root “eu-angelos” both mean “good-news”].

The holy disciple likewise wrote in the years 62-63 at Rome, the Book of the Acts of the Holy Apostles. The Acts, which is a continuation of the Four Gospels, speaks about the works and effects of the holy Apostles after the Ascension of the Saviour. At the centre of the narrative – is the Council of the holy Apostles at Jerusalem (year 51 A.D.), a Church event of great critical significance, with a dogmatic basis for the distancing of Christianity from Judaism and its independent dispersion into the world (Acts 15: 6-29). The theological objective of the Book of Acts is that of the Dispensation-Economy of the Holy Spirit, actualised in the Church founded by the Lord Jesus Christ, from the time of the Ascension and Pentecost to the Second Coming of Christ.

From “Calender, Saint John of Kronstadt Press”

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While we enjoy the lazy days of summer in peace, it is worth reflecting upon the horrors that our Christian brothers in the Arab world have been facing over the past two years.

RealClearWorld - Arab Spring Turns to Christian Winter

Iraq’s 1970 year-old Christian community, made up largely of indigenous Assyrians but also Arabs and Armenians, has been effectively ethnically cleansed from Iraq by rival Muslim militias; less than 30% of the Christian community are estimated to remain in Iraq. Many of these refugees are living under difficult conditions in Syria, and face the threat of persecution or expulsion if a Sunni Muslim government overturns the secular Arab nationalist regime of al-Assad. Some refugees are Eastern Orthodox Christians, many are from other Christian sects.

It is interesting to track the fate of Christian refugees from this region after they resettle in a western country. In the United States, Arab Christian migrants are more highly educated, more likely to own a business, and less likely to be on government benefits than native-born Americans. It is to be hoped that the wealthy western countries that have backed the overthrow of the Syrian regime will take responsibility for the refugees they have created, by providing temporary protection visas and allowing refugees to work. It is also worth considering that Russia’s strong position against external military intervention in Syria may not be entirely self-interested; while the Russian Navy needs access to the port of Tarsus, Russia also projects itself as the traditional protector of Christians in the Middle East and has a reputation to live up to.

This article, unlike most mainstream media reportage, provides a personal glimpse of the difficulties these people face.

Arab Spring Turns to Christian Winter

By William Dalrymple

Wherever you go in the Middle East today, you see the Arab Spring rapidly turning into the Christian winter.

The past few years have been catastrophic for the region’s beleaguered 14-million strong Christian minority.

In Egypt, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood has been accompanied by anti-Coptic riots and intermittent bouts of church-burning. On the West Bank and in Gaza, the Christians are emigrating fast as they find themselves caught between Benjamin Netanyahu’s pro-settler government and their increasingly radicalised and pro-Hamas Sunni Muslim neighbours. Most catastrophically, in Iraq, two thirds of the Christians have fled the country since the fall of Saddam.

It was Syria that took in many of the 250,000 Christians driven out of Iraq. Anyone who visited Damascus in recent years could see lounging in every park and sitting in every teahouse the unshaven Iraqi Christian refugees driven from their homes by the sectarian mayhem that followed the end of the Baathist state. They were bank managers and engineers, pharmacists and businessmen – all living with their extended families in one-room flats on what remained of their savings and assisted by the charity of the different churches.

RealClearWorld - Arab Spring Turns to Christian Winter

“Before the war there was no separation between Christian and Muslim,” I was told on a recent visit by Shamun Daawd, a liquor-store owner who fled Baghdad after he received Islamist death threats. I met him at the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus, where he had come to collect the rent money the Patriarchate provided for the refugees. “Under Saddam no one asked you your religion and we used to attend each other’s religious services,” he said. “Now at least 75 per cent of my Christian friends have fled.”

Those Iraqi refugees now face a second displacement while their Syrian hosts are themselves living in daily fear of having to flee for their lives. The first Syrian refugee camps are being erected in the Bekaa valley of Lebanon; others are queuing to find shelter in camps in Jordan, north of Amman. Most of the bloodiest killings and counter-killings that have been reported in Syria have so far been along Sunni-Alawite faultlines, but there have been some reports of thefts, rape and murder directed at the Christian minority, and in one place – Qusayr – wholesale ethnic cleansing of the Christians accused by local jihadis of acting as pro-regime spies. The community, which makes up about 10 per cent of the total population, is now frankly terrified.

For much of the past 100 years, and long before the Assads came to power, Syria was a reliable refuge for the Christians of the Middle East: decades before the Iraqis arrived the people of Syria welcomed the Armenians escaping the Young Turk genocide of 1915. In 1948 they took in the Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim, driven out of their ancestral homes at the creation of Israel; and during the 1970s and 80s their country became a place of shelter for Orthodox Christians and Maronites seeking a refuge during Lebanon’s interminable sectarian troubles.

For while the regime of the Assad dynasty was a repressive one-party police state in which political freedoms were always severely and often brutally restricted, it did allow the Syrians widespread cultural and religious freedoms. These gave Syria’s minorities a security and stability far greater than their counterparts anywhere else in the region. This was particularly true of Syria’s ancient Christian communities. The reason for this was that the Assads were Alawite, a syncretic Shia Muslim minority regarded by Sunni Muslims as heretical, and disparagingly referred to as Nusayris, or Little Christians: indeed, their liturgy seems to be partly Christian in origin. Alawites made up only 12 per cent of Syria’s population and the Assads kept themselves in power by forming what was in effect a coalition of Syria’s religious minorities, through which they were able to counterbalance the weight of the Sunni majority.

In the Assads’ Syria, the major Christian feasts were national holidays; Christians were exempt from turning up to work on Sunday mornings; and churches and monasteries, like mosques, were provided with free electricity and were sometimes given state land for new buildings. In the Christian Quarter of Old Damascus around Bab Touma, electric-blue neon crosses would wink from the domes of the churches and processions of crucifix-carrying boy scouts could be seen squeezing past gaggles of Christian girls heading out on the town, all low-cut jeans and tight-fitting T-shirts. This was something unknown almost anywhere else in the Middle East.

There was also widespread sharing of sacred space. On my travels, in a single day I have seen Christians coming to sacrifice sheep at the Muslim Sufi shrine of Nebi Uri, while at the nearby convent of Seidnaya (recently shelled by government forces) I found that the congregation in the church consisted not principally of Christians, but instead of heavily bearded Muslim men and their shrouded wives. Now that precious multi-ethnic and multi-religious patchwork is in danger of being destroyed for ever.

As in Egypt, where the late Coptic Pope Shenouda supported Hosni Mubarak right up until his fall, the established churches of Syria marked the beginning of the revolution by lining up behind the regime. My friend Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, the urbane and multilingual Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo, was quoted as saying: “We do not support those who are calling for the fall of the regime simply because we are for reform and change.”

Initially many of the flock were unsure of the wisdom of that position, and young Christians were among those calling for the end of the Assad regime, hoping for a new dawn of freedom, human rights and democracy. But, a year on, pro-revolution Christians are much harder to find. There are more and more reports of violent al-Qa’ida-inspired salafists fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army, while Turkish backing for the opposition Syrian National Council has terrified the Syrian Armenians.

As criminality, robbery, lawlessness and car-jacking become endemic, even in places where outright fighting is absent, and as the survival of the regime looks daily less and less likely, the Christians fear they will soon suffer the fate of their Iraqi brethren.

As ever, the Christians here remain mystified by the actions of Christian America. When George W. Bush went into Iraq, he naively believed he would be replacing Saddam with a peaceful, pro-US Arab democracy that would naturally look to the Christian West for support. In reality, nine years on, it appears that he has instead created a highly radicalised and unstable pro-Iranian sectarian battleground. Now US support is being channelled towards opposition groups that may eventually do the same to the minorities of Syria.

As in 80s Afghanistan, a joint operation between the CIA and Saudi intelligence could end up bringing to power a hardline salafist replacement to a brutally flawed but nonetheless secular regime. If that happens in Syria, the final death of Christianity in its Middle Eastern homelands seems increasingly possible within our lifetime.

RealClearWorld – Arab Spring Turns to Christian Winter.

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