Thursday, June 7, 2012

Not All Bedfellows Are Strange

Russian Orthodox Patriarch
Kiril I, supporter of the regime
in Syria
Syria’s struggle for democracy has been very much in the news, particularly since the Houla Massacre where Syrian Army and Militia have been alleged to have execution-style massacred 108 civilians including 34 women and 49 children.  The massacre seems, in part, to reflect the Shia-Sunni antagonism that tears apart much of the Islamic world.  Syrians have been demanding an end to the regime of Bashar Hafez al-Assad.  Bashar al-Assad has been in power in Syria since the year 2000 when he succeeded his father  Hafez al-Assad who had ruled Syria for 29 years.  The party under which this father-son combination has served are the Ba’ath party—a party tied to the same party that ruled Iraq during the Sadam Hussein years. 
It would seem to most of us that this is another sinister regime that should be overthrown and replaced by a democracy and Americans are highly suspicious of Russia’s motivations for blocking any effective international cooperation in getting rid of the current regime.  Putin’s administration undoubtedly has a variety of reasons for wanting to shore up the al-Assad regime, but one of them is that the Russian Orthodox Church is supportive of al-Assad.  Putin, for a variety of political motives, has worked very closely with the Russian Church and the Moscow Patriarchate has always functioned as an agency of the State—even during the Communist era where the Church was very much subject to government control and used by the government for political ends.  Putin does not want to alienate the Church but finds support for his regime in collaboration with it.
Why would the Russian Church support the al-Assad regime?   Well, again, the situation is very complex and the motives are mixed.  The Moscow Patriarchate has always been anxious to be seen as the protector of Christian minorities in the Arab world as part of the Patriarchate's plan to achieve primacy in the Orthodox world.   But it is not all self-serving.  The plight of Christians in the Near East and North Africa has deteriorated terribly during the “Arab Spring.”  The Christian communities of Iraq and Egypt are undergoing particularity virulent persecutions.  (See blog entries for Dec 24, 26, 2011, March 20, 21, 23, 2012)  for more information on the plight of Christians in the Arab world, let me recommend to you the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (paste this into your browser: )   

No comments:

Post a Comment