Amid mounting turmoil, Syria’s sizable Christian minority appears to be throwing its fate cautiously behind embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad in his bid to crush a popular uprising, according to The New York Times
With ever-present signs of instability, including government troops’ assault Tuesday on the rebel stronghold of Rastan with tank and machine guns, some Christians fear that a change of power could leave them perilously vulnerable at the hands of the Sunni Muslim majority. Moreover, they fear that the country could be facing a civil war, the Times reports.
Bishara Boutros al-Rai, Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic patriarch, urged Syrian Catholics to give Assad a chance to carry out the many reforms that he promised but never enacted in a country where the Assad family has protected Christians for 40 years.
Although the patriarch’s remarks are seen as controversial in Lebanon, which wrestled with Syrian control for 29 years, he warned that the fall of Assad could threaten Christians across the Middle East, characterizing the leader as “a poor man who cannot work miracles.”
With at least 20 people wounded in Rastan, one Christian visiting a church in the mountains near Damascus acknowledged to a reporter what many of his fellow Christians are feeling in this time of uncertainty.
“We are all scared of what will come next,” Abu Elias said outside the Convent of Our Lady of Saydnaya, a church where Syrian Christians who make up as much as 10 percent of the population have worshiped for 1,400 years.
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