Fears for Christians in Syria

The situation of Christians in Syria could worsen under a new government. This was the fear voiced by Bishop Samir Mazloum of the Maronite Patriarchate of Antioch, in a discussion with international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

According to Bishop Mazloum, whose See is in Bkerke, Lebanon, the Church is monitoring the events in the neighboring country with “a certain trepidation,” as it is not inconceivable that a new regime “could be much more dictatorial and fanatic even than the Assad regime.”

The Bishop noted that the Muslim Brotherhood in particular was “very strong and extremely well prepared to take power.”

Bishop Samir Mazloum, the Curial Bishop Emeritus of Antiochia Maronite) in Lebanon and Apostolic Visitator for the Maronites in Europe

In such a case, he fears the introduction of the Sharia, which would also apply to Christians. This would make Christians “second-class citizens, denied equality and the right to a normal life.”

Bishop Mazloum also fears possible reprisals against Christians.

He termed the situation of Christians in the past 30 years under the Assad regime “acceptable,” a circumstance that in the event of a radical change could be construed as “collaboration with the Assad regime” and provoke action against Christians.

Bishop Mazloum added that the situation was only acceptable because the regime itself was constituted by a minority, the Alawites, so that minorities were not abused.

However, the Bishop expressly endorsed changes in the direction of democratizing the country and ensuring human rights, “as the youth in the streets are demanding.”

In all, around 1.6 million Christians live in Syria. Approximately 35,000 of them are Maronites, who are united with the Roman Catholic Church.

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action. Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world. The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide. For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384. www.churchinneed.org