"We are dying and the world is watching"

As Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited one of the impromptu Syrian refugee camps that have cropped up along the border, Syrian children held up a cardboard sign that pretty much says it all: "We are dying and the world is watching." Thousands have fled the Syrian army's pacification program in Jisr al-Shughour where Syrian soldiers apparently turned their weapons against each other after a handful revolted against orders to fire on unarmed demonstrators.

Many nations have condemned the brutal crackdown on dissent that is putting a bloody finish to this Arab Spring, and there is movement for a further condemnation from the United Nations of the increasingly isolated Assad government. But don't hold your breath waiting for a more meaningful intervention from the global community. The international "responsibility to protect" (R2P) defenseless civilians from their own governments has already been called into play in Libya. It appears that confronting the presumed threat there means that the actual murder of civilians that is actually taking place this week in Syria and Sudan will not be confronted. I don't mean to discount the danger Muammar el-Qaddafi represented to his own citizens—he essentially threatened to liquidate Benghazi after all. I only note that the events of the past few days are painful evidence of how far the international community actually is from presenting a credible counterforce to state actors that become a threat to their own people.

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Libya, of course, offers a more amenable target for intervention. Getting involved in Syria and Sudan promises to be complicated and messy; boots on the ground and confronting forces not likely to quickly back down and such business. Besides, who would do the intervening? The U.S. is distracted elsewhere; Europe's diminished capability is likewise otherwise engaged in Libya. Despite memories of Rwanda and the fact that Sudan is the often cited justification for the advent of R2P in international relations in the first place, it looks like no one has the stomach or the capability to field a large-scale intervention there. The U.N. is, meanwhile, owing to the obstructionism of Russia and China, barely capable of putting together a resolution that at least verbally condemns Assad.

But it is fair to ask if it is the uncertain outcomes the Arab Spring itself that may have diminished any enthusiasm for a strong humanitarian-based intervention in Syria. While the West recoils in horror from the various and persistent outrages being committed by forces loyal to the Assad clan, the Chaldean Catholic Bishop of Aleppo, Syria, a Jesuit, makes a public relations case for the regime. The Syrian government must resist the uprising, said Bishop Antoine Audo. In quelling forces of "destabilization and Islamization," it has, he said, the people's backing. In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Audo accused the media, specifically the BBC and Al Jazeera, of propagandizing against the Assad regime and ignoring the threat to stability and purported outrages committed by agitators for democracy.

As church leaders caught off guard in Arab Springing nations have before him, Bishop Audo worries about the outcome of all the social upheaval and the possibility of ethnic and religious-based reprisals in the aftermath of a presumed regime collapse, preferring the devil he knows in Assad to whatever religious furies might be unleashed by a widespread destabilization in Syria. "The fanatics speak about freedom and democracy for Syria, but this is not their goal," he said. "They want to divide the Arab countries, control them, seize petrol and sell arms. They seek destabilization and Islamization....Syria must resist—will resist. 80 percent of the people are behind the government, as are all the Christians."

He suggested Syria could suffer the same fate as a post-Saddam Iraq, where the Christian minority quickly became a target of violence and intimidation from all sides. "We do not want to become like Iraq" the bishops said. "We don't want insecurity and Islamisation and have the threat of Islamists coming to power. Syria has a secular orientation. There is freedom. We have a lot of positive things in our country."

Syria's 1.5 million Christians have lived in peace and in truth there is no small threat to them in the unleashing of new forces, even democratic ones, in a new Middle Eastern order. But what a choice to have to make is Audo's: to accept, even promote the necessarily cruel hold on power maintained by the Assads or embrace a hope in the possible liberation offered by a new and undoubtedly chaotic Syria. The church in Syria shows a traditional preferential option for stability with Audo's statement. It will certainly come off badly if the Assads end up on a midnight flight to exile soon, but it won't exactly look terrific if it turns out to be on the deeply tarnished winning side in this confrontation either. The next few weeks will call for good survival instincts and diplomatic dexterity. Let's hope Bishop Audo is up to the challenge.

 

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Beth Cioffoletti
6 years 6 months ago
We can pray, David.  We can know, in the human family and global village, what our brothers and sisters suffer.  Empathy - to suffer with - is not for nothing.
ed gleason
6 years 6 months ago
Qaddafi is losing so if he goes quickly and 'badly' it will have a profound effect on Assad and his loyalists/clan to get out and do it quickly. . The Arab spring may be over by early summer.
6 years 6 months ago
Syria is a puppet of Iran and a conduit for Iranian interference in Israel and Lebanon.  Assad is just a shell and controlled by the Alawis and Iran.  The military is mostly alawi and has been kept that way on purpose so that they could control the rest of the population by owning the guns and tanks etc.  The Alawi are shia and the rest of the country is mostly sunni.


Either way the country is headed for an Islamification, whether sunni or shia.  And either way the Christians will be pariahs and eventually forced out as they will be in every other Muslim land.  A recent study in the US showed the normal muslim preferred Sharia while the few radical muslims were the ones interested in democracy.


The so called Arab Spring is a joke.  It started as a protest over food prices but no one really believed it would end up with any democracy.  The only Arabs that live in a democracy are those in Israel and I guess you could say for the time being, Iraq.  As the bishop said there never was any intent on democracy anywhere.  Some believe it may happen but it eventually comes down to those who have to govern and they are not interested in Western style hedonism which they associate with free elections.   
6 years 6 months ago
''Which study was this?  Who published it? ''

The most recent study is causing quite a stir because it points to the preaching of violence as the norm, not the exception and its correlation with sharia compliance.  Here is a link to it


http://www.meforum.org/2931/american-mosques


 The attitudes towards sharia in Muslim lands come from another study from 2007 of attitudes in Muslim countries.  They say they want both democracy and sharia but the two are essentially incompatible.  Some aspects are harmless to a society such as things similar to a Catholic's fasting on Fridays in Lent but others are not It will be interesting to see where all this will be a year from now.


http://www.stopshariahnow.org/files/START_Apr07_rpt.pdf
Crystal Watson
6 years 6 months ago
Rowan Williams is not so sanguine about the "arab spring" either ... http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13769747
Beth Cioffoletti
6 years 6 months ago
"Wouldn't a prayer for all suffering people in the world be equally effective?"

Well, I'm not going to discount any kind of prayer, David (#7), but until you specifically and personally recognize the suffering of others, I doubt that anything is going to change in you.  And that's what prayer is really all about, isn't it?
6 years 6 months ago
"We can know, in the human family and global village, what our brothers and sisters suffer.  Empathy - to suffer with - is not for nothing."

Yet, as a vocal pacifist, Beth, don't you oppose any military intervention to stop or change this suffering?  I am not advocating military intervention in Syria at this point, but your statements in light of your pacifism sound to me like others' suffering is a kind of meditation or reflection for us that we should "know" and "see" how they suffer, yet somehow not act to change.  Are we just to "watch" them suffer? Surely this meditative watching is exploitative of the other in its own way, turning their suffering into a reflection for ourselves?  I hope you don't take this as an attack on your position, but I when I read your words, these were my thoughts in light of your pacifism.
6 years 6 months ago
''But you said ''A recent study in the US showed the normal muslim preferred Sharia while the few radical muslims were the ones interested in democracy,'' which is, of course, the exact opposite of what the study concluded.''


I don't think so.  The US study showed that the muslim who went to the mosque chose a mosque that advocated violence and advocated sharia compliance while a small minority went to mosques that did not do so.  I was being facetious in the sense that the muslim running against the tide, and who would be the radical, was the one moderate in tone towards violence.  I wonder what the same study done in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia etc would show.


Are Arab muslims interested in democracy? There has not been any Arab movement for democracy anywhere.  One could say that Egypt is such a place but we will have to wait and see but Egypt has no source of money to feed its people so that is not conducive to democracy.  We can hope.  One could sarcastically point to Iraq and Syria where Saddam Hussein and Assad received close to 100% of the vote in their elections.  The typical Arab youth is unemployed with no hope of a productive future yet sees the outer world very different from his.  Of course he will say he wants trade and communication because he sees a rich outside world but is he is unwilling to give up what sharia implies.


The example of the Palestinians indicates that even exposure to modern technology and thinking cannot eradicate a hatred that is constantly bred into them that will not allow them to move forward to a peace and a hopeful future.  They could have it in a second if they were reasonable. I posted a comment by Golda Meier before about this, 


''Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.'' 

So how many so called moderate Arabs are there interested in what democracy implies?  My guess is that the answer is very few.  We will see how the next couple years plays out. 
Tom Maher
6 years 6 months ago
The "Arab Spring" was always very much an western illusion.  The media without basis chose to annointed all anti-government insurgencies as "pro-democracy" without having any idea who these people really are. 

But surprise once again there is this thing in the moslem world called radical Islam. From Pakistan to Tunisia to the Sudan  the mosl powerful, numerous and best organized single group in the wider Moslem world are the followers of one or another radical Islam, militant jihadist who think its their religous duty to be at war with all non-moslems.  And as the double dealing in Pakistan post bin Laden death shows the jihadist have pently of sympathizers and supportes inside and outside of government of the moslem world.  


The Iranian revolution of 1979  comes to mind.  Did democracy triumph?  No.
Beth Cioffoletti
6 years 6 months ago
Jeff (#13), I don't know where I have ever identified myself as a pure pacifist. 

I am an advocate for nonviolent resolution to conflict, but I do not rule out military intervention.  I support the use of US forces in Africa to stop genocide.  I was for the military intervention that returned President Jean Bertrand Aristide to Haiti in 1992. 

Gospel values compel us to treat everyone with dignity and equality, being constantly on alert to extend mercy and compassion to all who are suffering.
Beth Cioffoletti
6 years 6 months ago
I should have added - I do not rule out military intervention IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS - when human suffering demands it and other tactics have failed. 

Vince Killoran
6 years 6 months ago
"The "Arab Spring" was always very much an western illusion."

I dunno-massive, mostly non-violent protests against authoritarian regimes with the demand for economic and political freedoms?  That sounds like more than a "western illusion" to me. Yes, there are many Muslim organizations involved and the final shape and character of these uprisings are yet to be determined-but these religious organizations are by no means fundamentalist in nature.

One of the most impressive part of the Arab Spring has been the central role played by women. 
Crystal Watson
6 years 6 months ago
<I>One of the most impressive part of the Arab Spring has been the central role played by women.</I>

I'm interested in seeing how this plays out once the ighting is over.  Women played a part in the revolution in Iran, but they aren't treated equally in Iran today ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_rights_in_Iran
Crystal Watson
6 years 6 months ago
And here's an NPR story about how things are going for women in Egypt now after the uprising ... not so well ....  http://www.npr.org/2011/04/19/135523441/women-press-for-a-voice-in-the-new-egypt
Crystal Watson
6 years 6 months ago
And this from the BBC ....   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12819919   ...   ok, now I'll shut up  :)
Vince Killoran
6 years 6 months ago
The other revolution where women's rights did not fare well, despite the promise of full citizenship, was the American Revolution. Notwithstanding Abigail Adams' plea to her husband to "remember the ladies" he and the other Founding Fathers did not. Still, the Revolution unleased a political force that developed into the Women's Movement.
Thomas Piatak
6 years 6 months ago
Western Christians should listen to Bishop Audo.  Syrian mobs have been chanting "Alawites to the coffin, Christians to Beirut."  Arab Christians realize that "democracy" in the Mideast means Islamic intolerance and anti-Christian violence.
Tom Maher
6 years 6 months ago
Vince Killorian (#18)

The ati-goverenment movements in the Arab world this spring were much cruder than you make them out ot be. This movement began and ended with being anti-goverenment.  Your wishful refinements of economic and political freedom or the central role of women are your own western imagination at work.  The ideals of individual freedoms are very much alien to Arab moslem culture and are not in evidence.  What the movements sort was a change of goverenment with the hope but no real plan that better economic conditions would follow.  

Eygpt does not look very promising for democracy or western women's rights or regional stability.  The Mosl;em Brotherhood looks like it has the upper hand of making Eygpt another fundementalist theocracy simil;iar to what Iran did 32 years ago and all the same bad effects.  And United States' interest in the region went from bad to worse.  Eygpt is now becoming very freindly with Iran and the Palestinians in ways that directly threaten the mid east peace such as opening the border with Gaza where guns and rockets can now freely flow into this area of conflict. 

The "Obama doctrine" does a poor job of looking out for individual freedom becasue it  igonore the realitiy of moslem fundemenatilism as a powerful political force that will overwhem all other poltical opposition.  The path is from a one man ditatorship to a theolcratic dictatorship hostile to all non-moslems and bent on the destruction of Israel.   Jimmy Carter's failed diplomacy with Iran looks good compared to Obama's blind eye to the full impacts  of these changes in goverenmentsfrom stable to establishihisn a oppressive moslem caliphate.
Vince Killoran
6 years 6 months ago
Tom assures us that there is nothing possibily redeeming to come out of the Arab Spring but he gets a few of his facts wrong (the Muslim Brotherhood does not embrace a
"fundamentalist theocracy") and ignores the groundswell of change by dismissing it all as. . . what?

The fact is that something IS happening that is summoning democratic sentiments. It's not clear how the complicated, sometimes contradictory, events will shake out in the end. Interestingly, Tom's "rush to judgement" reads as an opportunity to attack BO.

Kevin Clarke does us a service by pointing out the role of the Chaldean Catholic Church in the oppressive regime.
Tom Maher
6 years 6 months ago
Vince Killoran (#25)

Well thanks for putting in a good word for the Moslem Brotherhood which is the main contender for all offices  in the upcoming election in Eygpt this fall that eveyone in the western media seems to think will be by itself so woderful.  What could possibly go wrong? 

The Moslem Brothehood by the way is not at all interested in women rights that you imagine are so much a part of Egyptian poltical life in general including fundematalist  Islamists. 

The Moslem Brotherhood has a long history of violence in Eygpt and were outlaed..  This was the group who machined gunned down President Sadat fro making peace with Israel.  They would wantonly attack tourist to desatbilize the tourist industry and thereby weaken Eygpt .  By the way, very few tourist are visiting Eygpt becasue of the violence.    Many of its memebers have partiipated in jihad asgainst the west.  Don't look now but guess who just took over bin Laden's leadership riole in El Queada? Yes his second in command Doctor a long time Egyptian terrorist who got his start with the Eygptian Moslem Brotherhood.  Oh and have you counted the number of Coptic church's burnt doewn in Eygpt and Christians attacked since the Arab Spring?  This is  the pattern: only Moslems have civil and religious rights.  This is not democracy this de facto theocracy.

My favorite is the one of the cadidates for President of Eygpt who calims he use to be in the Moselm Broherhood but no more.  Isn't that what tha same assuracne Fidel Castro gave more than fifty years ago that he was not a communist but was only seeking democracy?  Such assurances arel ines that sells so well to gullible Americans.  It is what the American public wants to hear. -  A classic politcal deception that people fall for.  
Vince Killoran
6 years 6 months ago
Somehow I knew that Castro would make it into this exchange!

Offering a nuanced perspective of the many players in the Arab Spring isn't exactly "putting in a good word for the Muslim Brotherhood."  I wouldn't support them if I lived in Egypt but no good can come from misrepresenting who they are (e.g., http://www.thenation.com/article/158716/muslim-brotherhood-transition).

It sounds like Tom made up his mind about 30 seconds after the Arab Spring began. 
6 years 6 months ago
'the Muslim Brotherhood does not embrace a 
''fundamentalist theocracy'' '

From Wikipedia


''It began as a religious, political, and social movement with the credo, ''God is our objective; the Quran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of God is the highest of our aspirations.'' Al-Banna called for the return to an original Islam and followed Islamic reformers like Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida, who believed that contemporary Islam had lost its social dominance because most Muslims had been corrupted by Western influences. Sharia law based on the Qur'an and the Sunnah were seen as laws passed down by God that should be applied to all parts of life, including the organization of the government and the handling of everyday problems''


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Muslim_Brotherhood_in_Egypt


I do not know what people here use as a definition of fundamentalism but this come close to my image of the word.  By the way some want to go back to original Christianity as practiced in 60 AD because they believe it has been corrupted by the Church policy over time.  Some of these people identify themselves as liberal so are these liberals, fundamentalists.


By the way the term came into use about 100 years ago.  It was the name of a set of essays called ''The Fundamentals'' published by Protestants.  One of the themes of these essays was anti Catholicism.  It is now a derisive term used by many to disparage what they don't agree with in terms of religion but really has political overtones more than religious ones.


My problem with the Muslim Brotherhood is that if they try to do what they want even if non violent, it will not work.  And when it doesn't work the next step is to lash out at others and it will be violent.  But my guess is that in the short run, they will use violence any way.  We shall see. 
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 6 months ago
If the American colonial rebels succeed, there will be riots by the rabble against Catholics, genocide against indians, expansionist violence against Mexico.  Best to keep them under control under good King George. 
6 years 6 months ago
''If the American colonial rebels succeed''


Ah, yes.  John Adams, Robespierre and Qaradawi, all cut from the same cloth.  Hard to tell them apart.
Thomas Farrelly
6 years 6 months ago
Like most of those commenting, my knowledge of the Muslim Brotherhood or any of the other participants in the so-called Arab Spring is derived from magazine and newspaper articles, so predictions as to their future behavior are guesswork.  I for one would be amazed if these new regimes proved to be democratic or tolerant of Christianity, or of rival Muslim sects. 
As for intervention to stop the atrocities in Syria, only the US and Europe are mentioned as potential intervenors.  Turkey, a neighbor of Syria and possessing a large and powerful army, would be the obvious one to conduct a humanitarian intervention, but we simply do not expect a Muslim country to act benignly, do we?   At least they're providing camps for the Syrian refugees.  Very Christian of them!
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 6 months ago
John Adams first, later on, Andrew Jackson.  Ask a Cherokee.  
6 years 6 months ago
''Turkey, a neighbor of Syria and possessing a large and powerful army, would be the obvious one to conduct a humanitarian intervention, but we simply do not expect a Muslim country to act benignly, do we?''


It will be interesting to see what Turkey will do.  They are not Arab and have been cozying up to Iran recently in the world power game.  But Turkey is sunni and Assad and the Alawi are shia and Syria is key to Iranian aggression because of its access to the Mediterranean, Lebanon and Israel.  Much of the sanctions against Iran are being violated via transactions that take place in Turkey.


Meanwhile the Kurds are looking at all of this because they sit in the middle of everything.  All would be over in a minute if Iran was peaceful but they have global religious ambitions and they see a weak West.  Weakness is what begets war as pointed out by Thucydides 2500 years ago.  So if we have a major way, we can look to this as one of its origins.  Here is a short article by Claire Berlinski on it.  She lives in Istanbul.  Interesting she is Jewish and American and lives there.



http://ricochet.com/main-feed/When-Syria-Explodes

6 years 6 months ago
Mr. Kopacz,

Here is a very interesting recent book for you since you seem interested in the topic.  It is about what happened to the loyalists in the Revolutionary War.  Included are stories about black loyalists and the colonies they set up in Canada and eventually Africa.  One interesting thing is the British fleet that was suppose to protect Cornwallis at Yorktown was in Jamaica on a mercenary mission looking for gold.  This let the French fleet into Yorktown and the rest is history.  The book is


Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World  


http://www.amazon.com/Libertys-Exiles-American-Loyalists-Revolutionary/dp/1400041686 
Vince Killoran
6 years 6 months ago
Why on earth does it matter that Sean Winter likes Andy Jackson?!
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 6 months ago
I'm just saying, Mr. Cosgrove, that, if you look hard enough, you'll find in any revolutionary movement a dark side either overtly there or waiting in the wings.  Washington's officers wanted to make him king, but he had been chosen for his similarity to Cincinnatus, and was true to that character.  At the same time, slavery was tolerated for its financial advantage.  The bottom line is, I'm a believer in original sin and know that we have an amazing ability to screw anything up.  It has to be lived with and dealt with.

This goes for the Arab revolutions, as well.  A problem with these revolutions as well as the French and Russian revolutions, is that they occur in an environment of extreme repression.  But that repression makes these revolutions inevitable.  It doesn't pay, in the long run, to try to sit on a pressure cooker.  We can't control the world, as much as we would like.

With respect to Egypt, the US has a very strong relationship with their military, uninterrupted by the recent events.  I think they are a more powerful force than the Brotherhood in influencing future events there.
6 years 6 months ago
Mr. Kopacz,

''I'm a believer in original sin and know that we have an amazing ability to screw anything up.  It has to be lived with and dealt with.''

It is amazing how much we can agree on.  

I too a couple months ago thought the Egyptian military would rule the day in Egypt but I am not so sure of that now.
6 years 6 months ago
''Why on earth does it matter that Sean Winter likes Andy Jackson?''


It doesn't really.  He was just a foil to show that others may not hold Jackson in high regard for certain things he did and may actually agree with Mr. Kopacz on some things.  One thing I will not agree with is comparing John Adams to Andrew Jackson which apparently Mr. Kopacz thinks is appropriate.  I wonder what he would have done if I used George Washington instead.  I purposely did not use Thomas Jefferson.

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