Some Christians in Syria denounced the recent precision strikes by the United States, Britain, and France against the regime of dictator Bashar al-Assad as “unjust, brutal aggression” that will provide jihadists with the “momentum to continue in their terrorism” in a statement issued Saturday.
In a joint statement published soon after President Trump authorized strikes against Assad’s scientific research centers in Damascus, Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs based in and around Syria declared:
[We] condemn and denounce the brutal aggression that took place this morning against our precious country Syria by the USA, France and the UK, under the allegations that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons.
This brutal aggression destroys the chances for a peaceful political solution and leads to escalation and more complications…This unjust aggression encourages the terrorist organizations and gives them momentum to continue in their terrorism.
The following patriarchs issued the statement: John X of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East; Ignatius Aphrem II of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East; and Joseph Absi of the Melkite-Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem.
They appear to defend dictator Bashar al-Assad against Pentagon assertions that he is the culprit behind the April 7 chemical attack that killed more than 40 people and injured dozens of others in Syria, ultimately triggering the strikes by the United States and its allies on Thursday night.
The patriarchs stated:
The allegations of the USA and other countries that the Syrian army is using chemical weapons and that Syria is a country that owns and uses this kind of weapon, is a claim that is unjustified and unsupported by sufficient and clear evidence.
They called on “all churches in the countries that participated in the aggression, to fulfill their Christian duties, according to the teachings of the Gospel, and condemn this aggression and to call their governments to commit to the protection of international peace.”
Some Christians in Syria depend on protection from the Russian- and Iranian-backed Syrian regime against jihadists in the war-ravaged country, despite Iran’s close ties to the Shiite jihadist organization Hezbollah, which has fought on Assad’s behalf.
The patriarchs noted:
We salute the courage, heroism and sacrifices of the [Assad’s] Syrian Arab Army which courageously protects Syria and provide security for its people. We pray for the souls of the martyrs and the recovery of the wounded.
We are confident that the army will not bow before the external or internal terrorist aggressions; they will continue to fight courageously against terrorism until every inch of the Syrian land is cleansed from terrorism. We, likewise, commend the brave stand of countries which are friendly to the Syria and its people.
U.S. government and independent assessments have held the Syrian regime and its allies responsible for the killing of thousands of civilians, something the Christian leaders did not address.
Assad currently controls more territory than any other time since the civil war in Syria began in March 2011, courtesy of military and economic support from Russia and Iran.
Both Russia and Iran have warned of “consequences” in retaliation for the recent strikes against the Assad regime.
Echoing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime, the Christian leaders referred to the U.S. strikes as a “brutal aggression is a clear violation of the international laws and the [United Nations] Charter, because it is an unjustified assault on a sovereign country, member of the U.N.”
Some Catholics condemned similar strikes against the Assad regime launched by U.S. President Donald Trump last year.
Not all Christians in Syria are pro-Assad.
A representative for the Syriac Military Council (MFS), a militia that primarily represents Assyrian Christians in Syria’s northeastern al-Hasakah province, told Breitbart News in April 2017 that they stand against “the acts and policies of the Assad regime” and other “backward, extreme and terrorist groups.”