Bashar el-AssadBy Bruce Walker, The New American

Catholic bishops are warning that if the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria falls to Islamists, there may well be a mass genocide of Christians, such as seen in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Though Christians cannot support the brutality of the Assad dictatorship, few believe that rule by Muslim extremists will be any better.

Syria — home to Damascus, one of the most important cities of the ancient world and of special religious significance to Christians — has long had a tolerant attitude toward religious minorities. Syria’s Christians — estimated to be about 10 percent of the population, or 2.5 million — cherish this tradition of non-religious government. The Ba’athist Party of Syria had a counterpart in the Ba’athist Party of Iraq, whose last leader was Saddam Hussein. The party was actually founded by Michael Aflaq, a Syrian Christian, and although there are many objectionable features to its politics (it is, for example, overtly socialist), people of all faiths were able to live in relative safety even in a Syria in which the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants are Muslims.

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