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Will the Church "Act Urgently" for Syria?

by Berry Friesen (February 26, 2016)

At midnight at the start of February 27, a ceasefire of sorts will begin in Syria.  I pray it will be the beginning of the end of that terrible, five-year war.

Whether Syria’s horror is about to wind down or shift into overdrive, the betrayal of Syria by the Western church is already a matter of record.  This betrayal has struck a grievous blow to the witness of Messiah Jesus.  History will not be kind: covering one’s eyes is no defense when evil stands right in front of you.

Here is what Syrian Christian leaders are saying.

"The West has betrayed us," said Syriac Catholic Church Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan in November.  "Western democracies have conspired against Syria and produced the destruction of the nation's infrastructure, the demolition of houses, towns, villages, monuments and archaeological sites."

"This is the result of a foolish politics and of a conspiracy, under the pretext of bringing democracy to the region," Younan continued.  “All Eastern patriarchs, myself included, have spoken out clearly to the West from the very beginning.”

In their historic joint statement earlier this month in Cuba, Roman Catholic Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill turned first “to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated.

"Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.”

Their joint statement further “calls the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East.”

Aleppo’s Most Reverend Georges Abou Khazen, appointed by Pope Francis in 2013 and speaking a week after the historic statement from Cuba, confirmed in an interview that the majority of Syrian people have given up on help from the West and are pinning their hopes on Russia’s campaign in Syria. "We see Russia's military operation as a real effort to fight terrorism. What is especially important is that this military campaign goes in parallel with promotion of peace process . . . We really hope that the peace process will soon prevail over fighting all across Syria.”

Typically, Christian leaders in the West excuse their silence by insisting the war in Syria is infinitely complex with wrong on all sides and no clear moral direction.

Yet facts long available to those doing their moral due diligence—especially to church leaders with staff at the ready and contacts around the world—are now becoming too obvious to deny.  Donald Trump speaks openly of this on the campaign trail and mainline newspapers increasingly write about it.  Ignorance is no longer a moral safe harbor.

What do I mean?  Here is a sampling of what is known by those who care enough to know.

1. In recent days, Turkey’s army has massed along its border with Syria and begun shelling Syria with heavy artillery.  Turkey’s leaders have claimed it will not be bound by the ceasefire and is free to continue its bombardment.

In response, Russia proposed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for international respect for Syria’s borders and Syria’s sovereignty.  Though passage of the resolution would have ended the Turkey’s threat to widen the war, veto-wielding United States flatly rejected the proposal, calling it a “distraction.”

Wrote Mike Whitney, “There was nothing controversial about the resolution, no tricks and no hidden meaning. The delegates were simply asked to support Syrian sovereignty and oppose armed aggression. These are the very principles upon which the United Nations was founded. The US and its allies rejected these principles because they failed to jibe with Washington’s geopolitical ambitions in Syria.”

2. The US State Department now admits US-supported forces and terrorists fighting for Jabhat al-Nusra (the leading al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria) are “co-mingled” in Syria. Similarly, the Washington Post reports Jabhat al-Nusra “fights alongside rebel forces supported by the United States and its allies.”

This has been the case for years now, facilitating the pretense that weapons and training provided by Western powers support only “moderate” militias, yet assuring the more militarily effective Jabhat al-Nusra ultimately benefits. The New York Times has reported the CIA partnership with Saudi Arabia to arm “moderates” fighting alongside al-Nusra goes back at least to 2013

3.  Again, the neo-con Washington Post reports that “Jabhat al-Nusra, whose forces are intermingled with moderate rebel groups in the northwest near the Turkish border, is particularly problematic [to a ceasefire]. Russia was said to have rejected a U.S. proposal to leave Jabhat al-Nusra off-limits to bombing as part of a cease-fire, at least temporarily, until the groups can be sorted out.”

Let that sink in.  As Mike Whitney puts it, “Consider how hypocritical it is for Obama to reject Russia’s draft resolution at the UN and, just hours later, try to put al-Qaida under the protective umbrella of a US-Russia brokered ceasefire. What does that say about America’s so called ‘war on terror’?”

4.  Numerous reports published by Iraqi and Iranian news services document US, British and Israeli assistance for Da’esh in Iraq.  This assistance reportedly includes helicopter transport of Da’esh leaders, as well as Western intelligence on Iraqi army movements and the supply of Western-made weaponry.  These media reports have been persistent and sustained, generating the widespread view in the Middle East that Da’esh is a mercenary army of the Western powers.  None of this is ever reported in the West.

5.  Although for several years Western media also refused to report on Turkey’s partnership with Da’esh in Syria, in recent months the lid has come off (see here and here).  Anyone making a modest effort to stay informed about Syria now knows that Turkey has facilitated the recruitment and training of Da’esh fighters, their movement from Turkey into Syria, their equipping and resupply via truck convoys from Turkey, and their financial support through the sale of Da’esh’s stolen oil and antiquities in Turkey.

6.  Apologists for the empire’s rape of Syria deflect their guilt on to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who (it is said) “gassed all those children” and “gunned down all those innocent protesters” during the Arab Spring demonstrations in early 2011.

Though you will not hear this from mainstream Western media, the case against Assad for gassing the children of Ghouta has crumbled.  It was debunked early on by a Syrian nun and a later study by two MIT professors largely finished the job.  Subsequently, credible reports out of Turkey have alleged that Turkey’s covert intelligence agency smuggled sarin gas to rebels inside Syria for the attack.

Similarly, the case against Assad for using unreasonable force against civil demonstrations in 2011 crumbles when considered carefully.  Scores of police officers and soldiers died as a result of gunfire during the demonstrations highly publicized by Western media.  The demonstrators were not armed and so it is apparent armed provocateurs had infiltrated the events. Their goal was to provoke and delegitimize President Assad, a goal still pursued relentlessly by the Western powers.

7.  Earlier this week, US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly announced that if the February 27th ceasefire doesn’t work, the US will proceed with “Plan B,” which is the partition of Syria into pieces.

Again, those paying attention know that Plan B has been Plan A since at least 2007 when President George W. Bush decided to light the fuse that would produce regime change in Syria and redraw the borders of Middle Eastern nations.  President Barack Obama put that plan into effect in the spring of 2011; Syrians have been dying by the thousands ever since.

I ask Western church leaders:  Are you willing to help the people of Syria?  Not only the refugees who have come out of Syria, but the people still trapped by the violence your governments sponsored?

If so, speak up now, as the February 27 ceasefire goes into effect, a ceasefire that could end the slaughter launched by the CIA and allies five years ago, a ceasefire the US fully expects to fail.

Go back and read the statement from Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill.  They plead with us to “act urgently.”  Will you do that?