Russian Orthodox Bishop: Syrian Christians Facing ‘Extermination’

Over at the Acton Institute blog, John Couretas writes about his recent interview with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, about increasing Christian persecution around the world. One focus was the mid-east where the Western “Arab Spring” policy has in fact unleashed a torrent of persecution against Christians. Iraq’s Christian population had to leave after the American invasion in 2003. Today the same is happening in Syria, especially as we arm insurgents who we are told are freedom fighters but in fact are Islamic radicals.

Met. Hilarion is careful in his criticism…

It is possible already now to speak of an external military interference in [Syria] as thousands of extremist militants in the guise of opposition forces have unleashed a civil war in the country,” Hilarion said in the Moscow lecture. “Extremist groups, the so-called jamaates consisting of militant Wahhabites armed and trained at the expense of foreign powers are purposefully killing Christians.

…but is is clear that “external military interference” applies to the United States and other Western powers. When America arms insurgents (the policy of the Obama administration), we are arming Islamic radicals who will displace the Christian population if they succeed in overthrowing Bashar al-Assad, the President of Syria.

What about Assad, the favorite whipping boy of American liberals and neo-conservatives? Couretas writes:

Despite having few illusions about the nature of Assad’s autocratic rule, many Christians feared that the Islamist groups, involved in what the West initially viewed as another “Arab Spring” uprising, would eventually turn on them. Indeed this is what has happened.

The illusion informing American foreign policy is that democratic principles can be imposed on other countries by force. It can’t. First of all, representative government is a cultural impossibility in an Islamic dominated country. Secondly, America should not be in the business of “nation building.” It distorts our self-understanding and responsibility in the world. There are some places in the world were a dictatorship is the best type of government a nation can produce. America has made matters worse in Syria by removing the barriers that held the persecutors of Christians in check.

A portion of the article is reproduced below. For the complete posting go to the Acton Institute Blog.

Source: Acton Institute Blog | John Couretas

The Russian Orthodox Church has been among the most active witnesses against Christian persecution around the world, particularly in the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East. In November 2011, Kirill, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, visited Syria and Lebanon. In a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Kirill said that he shared a concern with Assad about the “spread of religious radicalism that threatens the integrity of the Arab world.”

That sentiment has been expressed widely in Christian communities in Syria — some of them dating to apostolic times — as civil war has progressively taken a heavy toll. Now almost two years on, as many as 30,000 people may have perished. Despite having few illusions about the nature of Assad’s autocratic rule, many Christians feared that the Islamist groups, involved in what the West initially viewed as another “Arab Spring” uprising, would eventually turn on them. Indeed this is what has happened. Entire Christian villages have been depopulated, churches desecrated, and many brutal killings have taken place at the hands of the “Arab Spring” insurgents. Most recently, Fr. Fadi Haddad, an Orthodox priest, was found murdered with brutal marks of torture on his remains. Car bomb attacks are now being waged against Christian neighborhoods. (See these backgrounders on the Syrian crisis from the Congressional Research Service and the Council on Foreign Relations).

In February, Hilarion delivered a lecture in Moscow titled “An Era of New Martyrdom. Discrimination of Christians in Various Parts of the World” in which he cited the work of groups such as Barnabas Fund and International Christian Concern. In his talk, he detailed the dire situation of the Coptic Christians in Egypt and in Syria, and various other nations. He noted that Muslims and Christians of various confessions – Orthodox, Roman and Syro Catholics, Maronites and Armenians – co-existed in Syria through centuries and that, until recently, “Syria was a model of wellbeing as far as interreligious co-existence was concerned.” What’s more, Syria has accepted 2 million refugees from Iraq, with several thousand of them being Christians, as they fled persecution in their homeland.


For the complete posting go to the Acton Institute Blog.


  1. Here we see the narrative doing it’s work. It is a contradiction in terms this suggested notion of ‘imposing democracy by force’ as no democracy unwanted by the people will last– obviously enough by its very nature if it’s a real democracy and the people vote to end it — it will end.

    Second, dictatorship is, was and always will be a very bad idea in any society that is broadly educated and beyond the city-state size– plainly this is so as the population under a dictatorship needs must survive and grow or suffer and die according to the limits of the vision of the dictator: as it changes from moment to moment, era to era. Democracy is what allows the educated locally take local decisions. Democracy is the only system known that allows for success to not be burdened by political whims, courtly intrigues, pressured ‘in name only’ courts, judges.

    Really I can’t believe I’m reading this at aoi.

    That the Christians in Islamic countries generally were among the better educated, and so more wealthy, more productive isn’t so different than the Jews in Nazi Germany. Easily identified, easily made into objects of envy, easy to make a ‘them’ to mask over the really awful policies of their authoritarian ‘I have a vision from God’ uber-menchen overlords. In this case swap Islamic radicals for Nazis, but it’s the same story.

    A dictator as ‘the way forward’? That dictator knew the Christians would return his support in exchange for being left alone, in Syria that man was not the of the most populous ethnic tribal origin. When he lost support, the role of the Jews of the WWII era is being played by the Christians there– what with no Jews left there to beat up upon.

    Don’t blame democracy, that’s not the problem. Not letting people really know they are free to vote themselves greater freedom without reprisals: That’s the problem.

    • Fr. Hans Jacobse :

      Harry, there is no “forward” if America is supporting Muslim radicalism, which is what we are doing in Libya, Egypt, and Syria. The notion that an “Arab Spring” will flourish by the removal of these men is clearly not happening, in fact the limited freedom enjoyed by Christians is being destroyed and the many Christians along with it. This is not an endorsement of a dictatorship, but a repudiation of the notion that these dictators were holding back political freedom when in fact they were holding back a radicalism that threatened the lives and livelihoods of Christians.

      So America (and other western powers) have introduced the plebiscite, and the men voted into office will become worse than the ones thrown out.

      It’s time to revisit Jeanne Kirkpatrick’s Dictatorships and Double Standards.

      There’s a difference between supporting democracy and the Wilsonian importation of it in different parts of the world. Obama, Hillary, the whole crew are Wilsonian. Obama displays the Carter naivete with an army behind him. Dangerous stuff.

      • I had this really great reply, but lost it when it needed me to fill in some details. I’m not typing it again.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

          If it ask me to do something like that I always hist CTRL-A and CTRL-C just in case. It has saved me a few times.

    • “Don’t blame democracy, that’s not the problem. Not letting people really know they are free to vote themselves greater freedom without reprisals: That’s the problem.”

      That’s one of the most garbled statements I’ve ever read. It makes literally no sense. Like something from a spambot.

      I don’t know where Americans got this Trotskyite mania for “democracy” in their foreign policy. For much of its existence, the voting franchise only extended to a minority of Americans, as befits a large republic, as opposed to the Swiss cantons or Greek city-states.

      At bottom, democracy just means we count up each sides’ rifles, and the ones with fewer agree to go home. This can be good or bad depending on the democratic majority. Places like Zimbabwe and South Africa are anarcho-tyrannies under the rule of their democratic majorities. Syria will be too, once all the crazed, ignorant Salafists get the run of the place.

      Does it not strike you as ironic that the rebels’ biggest supporters are two hereditary monarchies that have zero tolerance for any political dissent?

  2. If you really want to understand where the pushing and shaping is coming from in the Middle east find a map that shows ethnic populations, a demographic map that only shows political boundaries in very light pencil.

  3. Obama is in the post colonial uprise business and arms resistence or allows it to happen. Hilary voice concerns since the recent events that he is backing off.

  4. Over the summer, I attended a mass given by the Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Yousef Yonan in Malta. In his homily, he addressed himself in English to the Westerners in attendance and told us that what his people are experiencing is worse than the genocide of 1915, and that it is our responsibility to let the world know this.

  5. The current U.S. administration thinks that by taking a “hands off” approach (or hands under the table approach) they will escape the political fallout of their actions. There is no escape from the political ramifications of getting involved in the Middle East. The people of the U.S. were warned of the President’s ignorance of international relations and national security, and now the world is reaping the harvest. The current political atmosphere in the U.S. breeds ignorance, and those who do not learn from history (the arming of al Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 1980s) are doomed to repeat it.

    It is shameful, but not surprising, that the U.S. government has taken a “hands off” approach to the suffering of Christians across the globe. The U.S. is a post modern secular country that only seeks to appease the Islamic hordes to avoid further attacks on the homeland. Helping poor and suffering Christians will not produce one barrel of oil, nor will it calm one iota of the irrational Islamic hatred anywhere on the earth.

    Pray that the U.S. finds its soul in this election year, or many more will suffer across the globe.


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