Jeff Kunerth, 10:03 a.m. EDT, September 5, 2013: Christians in the Middle East fear that an attack by the United States on Syria could backfire on Christians.
“There is major consensus amongst the Christian leaders in this region that any military intervention would have a detrimental effect … on Christians in Syria,” wrote Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general/CEO of World Evangelical Alliance, in a letter to the State Department, the White House and the United Nation’s Security Council.
Tunnicliffe said two Syrian pastors told him independently that Christians have received threats from those who say a regime change would mean a takeover by Islamists who would force Christians out of the country.
Father John Hamatie, head of Orlando’s St. George Orthodox Church, agrees. Hamatie, who has traveled to Syria in the past cited the recent attack on an ancient Christian town by Syrian rebels that included members of al-Qaida.
“When the United States talks about weakening the Syrian regime so it can be overthrown, it is going to be replaced by al-Qaida whose avowed goal is to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in Syria,” he said.
The town under attack, Maaloula, is occupied primarily by convent full of nuns: “There is no military connection to this town at all. It’s a town dominated by the Orthodox convent of St. Thekla.”
Hamatie fears that the attack on the town is a preview of what would happen if the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad — which has given Syrian Christians more liberties than past rulers — falls and fundamentalist Islamists take over.
Tunnicliffe was attending a meeting of about 70 Middle Eastern Christians in neighboring Jordan, according to the Religion News Service.
“I couldn’t find a Christian leader at the conference who supported military intervention,” Tunnicliffe said in an interview. “The question is, how do you protect Christians if there’s a regime change?”