The bishop proved a prophet. "After almost 2,000 years," writes the Financial Times, "Iraqi Christians now openly contemplate extinction. Some of their prelates even counsel flight."
The secular despot Saddam Hussein protected the Christians. But the U.S. liberation brought on their greatest calamity since the time of Christ. Scores of thousands of those Iraqi Christians fleeing terrorism and persecution after 2003 made their way to Syria, where they received sanctuary from President Bashar Assad.
Now, as the FT and Washington Post report, the Christians of Syria, whose forebears have lived there since the time of Christ, are facing a pogrom should the Damascus regime fall.
Christians are 10 percent of Syria's population, successful and closely allied to the minority Alawite regime of the Assad family. Said one Beirut observer, "Their fear is that if the regime falls to the Sunni majority, they will be put up against the same wall as the Alawites."
For decades, notes the Post, the Assad regime "has protected Christian interests by enforcing its strictly secular program and by curbing the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood."
Bashar's father, Hafez al-Assad, slaughtered perhaps 20,000 followers of the brotherhood after they began a campaign of bombings and terror and attempted an uprising in Hama in 1982. Hafez al-Assad rolled up his artillery and leveled the city.
Observing the toll of dead protesters -- more than 100 this past weekend, more than 200 overall, the work of police, snipers and agents of the regime -- it is hard to summon up any sympathy for Bashar Assad. And if his regime were to fall, that would eliminate a patron of Hamas and Hezbollah and a close ally of Iran in the Arab world.
But before he embraces the Syrian revolution, President Barack Obama ought to consider, as President George W. Bush did not, what happens to Arab Christians when a long-repressed Muslim majority comes to power.
In Iraq, liberated Shiites used their newfound freedom to cleanse Baghdad of Sunnis while al-Qaida arrived and went straight after the Christians. In Syria, it would be a Sunni majority rising if Bashar and the Alawites were to fall.
What would that mean for Syria's Christians, for peace, for us?
Since 1973, even when clashes have occurred and wars have been fought in Lebanon between Israelis and Syria or its proxies, the Assad government has maintained the truce on the Golan Heights.
Would a Sunni-dominated Syria do the same?
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