The situation of Christians in Syria

By Harry Hagopian
June 4, 2011

A few days ago Aline Sara wrote a significant piece for NOW Lebanon, entitled 'Should Syrian Christians be afraid?' Sara starts off with a chilling reminder.

“Christians to Beirut and the Alawites to the coffin.”

This chant, which some Syrians say they’ve heard during demonstrations in their country, alludes to what many Syrian minorities fear might happen should the 40-year rule of the Baath regime come to an end.

Many experts agree that President Bashar al-Assad, an Alawite ruling a majority-Sunni country, has managed to keep his grip on power in part thanks to mutual backing between his regime and the country’s other minorities, a number of which are made up of educated, middle-class Christians. As a result, it comes as no surprise that a number of them voice worry about the regime’s possible downfall.

At the same time, “The regime has an active interest in frightening the Christians. And if you want to frighten someone, it’s always good if you have some evidence,” argues Professor Volker Perthes, director of SWP, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, referring to the abovementioned chants.

The regime, some experts say, is making it seem that fanatical Muslims are prepared to take over should the president and his cronies be pushed out.

But should Syria’s Christian community, which is around 10 per cent of the population, actually be afraid?

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© Harry Hagopian is an international lawyer, ecumenist and EU political consultant. He also acts as a Middle East and inter-faith advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and as Middle East consultant to ACEP (Christians in Politics) in Paris. He is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor ( Formerly an Executive Secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Committee and Executive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches, he is consultant to the Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (UK) and author of The Armenian Church in the Holy Land. Dr Hagopian’s own website is

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