Syria: Syrian bishops approve the Russian offensive

October 23, 2015
3-syrie-russie“Two Syrian archbishops have expressed approval of the Russian strikes against rebel forces in their country,” announced American agency Catholic News Service (CNS) on October 9, 2015. Indeed, Bishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart, Catholic Melkite Archbishop of Aleppo, told Television Suisse Romande on his way through Geneva on October 8th, that the intervention of Russia in the Syrian civil war “gives hope” to the Christians of Syria amongst whom he has observed “renewed confidence.” Russia is serving the Christian cause and “Vladimir Putin is helping to solve the problem and to extricate us from an impossible situation,” Bishop Jeanbart continued. “The war on ISIS is priority,” he specified, before addressing British politicians on October 13th in London on the persecution of Christians in his country. The Archbishop of Aleppo recently told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), “For the last three years I have had to forget my 72 years of age and rush everywhere to seek out whatever can lighten the load of the privations weighing down my beloved people.” The Catholic Syriac archbishop of Hassake-Nisibi (in northeastern Syria), Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, defended Russia’s campaign to the Vatican agency Fides on October 2nd: “American senator John McCain protested, claiming that Russia was not attacking ISIS’s positions, but the anti-Assad rebels trained by the CIA. I find these words concerning. They constitute an unashamed admission that behind the war on Assad stands the CIA.” This great power has been protesting the Russian strikes on al Qaeda’s militia since September 11th—does this mean, asked the prelate, that al Qaeda is now an ally of the US, just because it goes by a different name in Syria? Italian agency Asia News, of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, released Archbishop Hindo’s interview on October 9th. The recent Russian offensive in Syria has proven to be effective against the terrorists of the so-called Islamic State (IS), he says, forcing them to retreat towards the Iraqi desert. “Moscow’s intervention has proven to be positive,” the Syrian prelate explains, “because its real target is Daesh [ISIS] and the jihadi militants have begun to flee the region [of Hassake – Ed.] in haste, on about 20 vehicles. They have abandoned 20 other vehicles. It is a sign that they are truly beating a retreat.” The Archbishop lives under constant threat from IS. “I live less than three kilometres from the city. One month ago, the jihadi offensive was pushed back, and they spread out around the city. During these last two weeks, thanks to the Russian attacks, they have begun to draw back.” Archbishop Hindo expresses serious reservations on American operations, (“for show,” he says), and condemns America’s “ambiguity.” He particularly deplores their failure to prevent the kidnapping of hundreds of Christians after IS’s offensive in the Khabur valley last February. “The night of February 23rd, when they were attacking Daesh, American planes flew over the area for a long time without intervening. Then for three days not a single shot was fired, leaving the field open for the jihadi militia. This makes us think that IS were, in a manner of speaking, aided by the Americans, who clearly displayed an ambiguous attitude.” Anxiety for these hostages has grown since the recent execution of three Assyrian Christians, recorded on video and released on several Islamic networks. Archbishop Hindo opposes the actions taken by the US, who had rather fire on the Syrian government than on jihadi militia. “The issue is not whether or not one is in favour of the government,” he emphasized. “People here have never believed in American attacks. Only the Kurds have really fought them on the ground, but only to maintain their positions.” The archbishop believes the Kurds cannot alone settle the problem. He states that the US, France and the UK talk of nothing but attacking Daesh, but not the al Nosra Front or the other armed Islamist groups linked with al Qaeda. Archbishop Hindo accuses Western governments of “working for the safety of Israel and for the division of Syria and Iraq, in order to lay their hands on the riches of these countries. It is not only oil they seek, because along our coastline a major deposit of natural gas has recently been discovered. A further issue at stake is the pipeline that Saudi Arabia and Qatar would like to build towards the West... Damascus would not allow them to cross its territory, and this is the result!” he thunders. The problem is “extremely complex,” he cautions. He is anxious to dispel the Western vision that sees the situation as a purely religious war between Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Moslems. “In this war, Daesh is concealing its economic interests and intends to divide the country, against the will of its people, the majority of which are united and wish to remain united,” he states forcefully. (Sources: CNS – RTS – Fides – kipa-apic.ch – AsaNews – DICI no. 323, 23/10/15) Read also : Syria: “There are no moderate rebels” Eyewitness: “Aleppo’s situation is among the most tragic” Syria: More persecutions of Christians at the hands of the Islamic State Terrorists Syria: 5th Year of War in plain view of the Western “arsonist firefighters” Iraq and Syria: These Christians who are suffering for their faith Syria: Facing the country’s destruction Syria: Jihadist militants turn against non-Islamic rebels Syria: Will Christianity be forced to disappear? Syria: The Christian city of Ma’loula falls into jihadist hands