In the light of Eid Al-Fitr at the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the continuing bloodshed in Syria comes into focus in my latest Middle East Analysis podcast with the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales - as we discuss the current situation and also look at the plight of the country's Christians.
Today Syria is a lesson about how motivated citizens can challenge governments that act violently and seem invincible, says Harry Hagopian. But we also need to be wary towards religious radicalism or fanaticism on the one hand, and military arrogance or political kleptocracy on the other, infiltrating movements for change and co-opting them in order to impose new forms of dictatorships, totalitarian control, subjugation and discrimination.
Every now and then, a person enters our lives and leaves a strong imprint. The high-profile global evangelical leader John Stott has been much commented on since his recent death. But there are other figures, less immediately identifiable in media terms, who help change the world for the better.
The social and economic crises President Assad referred to in his recent speech mask the real political crisis, says Harry Hagopian. This concerns the governance of the country, the relationship between the different members of the ruling dynasty, and the fact that the major impediment to a normalisation of the situation is the mounting anger against the two-million strong security services and police force who have been running amok and applying myriad forms of retributive action against largely unarmed demonstrators.
Ahead of my upcoming travels in Europe concerning the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, I have recorded another podcast for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, and for sharing on Ekklesia and beyond.
Israeli political leaders should heed opinions articulated by Jewish-American actor Leonard Nimoy and others, appreciating that a just solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is as much in their interest as it is in that of Palestinians, says Harry Hagopian. Otherwise, if a Palestinian gamble for virtual statehood is met by the usual Israeli intransigence, the outcome could become more deleterious for both peoples let alone more volatile for the Arab Spring.
Analysts are everywhere these days trying to make sense of what is happening in the MENA region. And it is not so easy either, given the lack of expertise of a number of the pundits, let alone the furious pace of the developments as well as the contradictions inherent in some of the changes from one day to another.