Christians die as peace hopes fade

Set against the suffering already inflicted on ordinary Syrians through the ongoing conflict there, it remains a fruitless hope that the dead of Sadad will prompt the warring sides to finally sit down at the negotiating table in Geneva this month.

Given prominent billing in these pages this week arising from the Christian faith of those found in two mass graves in the village, in the broader geopolitical reality 35 dead Syrians will hardly move the combatants (or the international community) where the estimated 1,500 victims of the August chemical attack or the ever increasing number of struggling refugees have not (not to mention the approximately 115,000 civilians killed thus far during the fighting).


Sadly, the dead of Sadad look set to become yet another statistic in a conflict now entering its 33rd month and the Christian village just another illustration of the deteriorating situation for the Christian presence in Syria.

As detailed in a dispatch by Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama: “[Sadad] has 14 churches and a monastery with four priests…All the homes of Sadad have been robbed, their possessions looted, by all the forces which entered Sadad.  The commercial premises shared the same fate. They destroyed the churches and stole some of their possessions, money and ancient books, and graphitised insults against Christianity. All government, school, and council buildings were destroyed, along with the post office, the hospital and clinic, as well as the Finance and the Agricultural Ministry branches.

“Our children have lost their future because of the destruction of the schools, the nursery, the youth centre.”

Cruel irony

In a cruel irony, the fate of the Christians of Sadad was emerging as the United Nations-Arab League Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi was ending his special trip to the country to engage with the sides and to restate the appeal for all to engage in talks towards a final and peaceful solution to the conflict.

‘All’ in this appeal refers to the now 20-plus groups working directly in opposition to the regime of President Bashar al Assad and who have complicated the struggle by taking to fighting among themselves, not only for territorial gains, but for very different ‘imperatives’ in the ongoing conflict. The group blamed for the Sadad massacre, for example, the Jabhat al Nusra grouping, as an al Qaeda-linked organisation, is only too keen to Islamise all before it, while the home-grown Free Syrian Army has no such goal – and no issue with the Christian community. Indeed, if the opposition has an Achilles heel in gaining a decisive victory over Assad, it comes from the fact that the numerous factions refuse to link up towards that end.


President Assad is keenly aware of this reality, and remains confident enough to dig in and allow his enemies to fight among themselves while at the same time playing the role of concerned leader for the international community. “What relation do these forces have with the Syrian people? Do these forces represent the Syrian people, or do they represent the states that invented them?” he asked in relation to those he is expected to negotiate with. (Ironically he did not pose the same question of the Hizbollah fighters now battling alongside his troops, nor the Russian weapons suppliers restocking his armouries) Nevertheless, in one small victory for the UN’s Mr Brahimi, the president has agreed in principle to take part in the so-called Geneva II peace talks proposed by the United States and Russia.

Condemnation, meanwhile, from some opposition groups for the very idea of talks with their sworn enemy does not bode well for the proposed November 23 start-date for the negotiations, and prompted Mr Brahimi himself to offer a dire prediction – not least for those Christians remaining in Syria – should they ultimately stall.

Referencing that most failed of states in Africa, Mr Brahimi said: “The real danger that threatens this country is a kind of ‘Somalisation’. More sustained and more profound than what we have seen even in Somalia.”