ONE of the principal Christian leaders in the Middle East said during a visit to London last Friday that Christians in Syria were “not the target” of attacks.
His Beatitude Gregorios III Laham, the Melkite Greek-Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem, who lives in Damascus, said at a lecture at Heythrop College, London, that there were situations in which “Christians were spared,” and that Syria was “the best place to live as a Christian in the Islamic world”. Religions other than Islam were permitted to exist, and the status of churches was recognised, he said.
The Revd Stephen Griffith, who was Anglican Chaplain in Syria from 1997 to 2002, wrote last week in the Church Times that religious minorities in Syria appreciated its “non-sectarian nature”, and that Christians in the country “fear that extreme Muslims are planning a Syria cleared of other faiths and the freedom to think”.
On Monday, it was reported that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad had carried out a massacre of at least 45 women and children in Homs. Speaking at the UN Security Council the same day, the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said: “In the eyes of the overwhelming majority of the world, this council has so far failed in its responsibilities towards the Syrian people. It has failed to address the brutal oppression of peaceful protesters by the Syrian regime.”
The head of the UN’s Office of the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Baroness Amos, speaking after a brief visit to Homs last week (News, 9 March), said: “The devastation there is significant. Part of Homs is completely destroyed.”
The UN peace envoy, Kofi Annan, visited President Assad.