One of Rome’s leading experts on Christianity in the Arab world says the fall of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria would create a worrying future for Christians in the country.
“If the rebels succeed Syria will become an Islamic country,” said Naman Tarcha, Director of the Bocca della Verita Cultural Center in Rome, to CNA on Aug. 5. The center exists to promote Arab art and culture, particularly that of Arab Christianity.
“Western television seems to suggest that this is a pacifistic revolution but most Christian Syrians know that’s not the case. They see the armed gangs gathering outside the mosque after Friday prayers particularly in cities like Hama,” said Tarcha who himself hails from the city of Aleppo in northern Syria.
His comments come only a day after U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, accused Syrian security forces of having killed some 2,000 people since the anti-government protests against President Assad began in March. She also restated her belief that the Assad regime has lost legitimately.
Her concerns have been echoed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev – usually an ally of Syria – who said President Assad would “face a sad fate” unless he urgently carries out political reforms and reconciles with the rebels.
“I think President al-Assad is a very honest person and he will change,” says Tarcha.
“That doesn’t mean there isn’t corruption and that he hasn’t made a lot of mistakes. For example, he’s taken too long to make his reforms and introduce more freedom and democracy.”
“But he’s a very good and intelligent person and he can change if others help. But it you simply want to destroy the country or create a war? Well that’s another thing. That’s why we must help him to change.”
Yesterday, the Syrian government’s official press agency ‘Mena’ announced the President Assad has now issued a decree authorizing a multi-party system in Syria. At the same time, though, Syria’s state television has been broadcasting images from inside the besieged city of Hama where rebels claim the Syrian army has killed more than 100 civilians during its bombardment of the city.
Tarcha, 35, will return to Syria in the next few weeks to visit his mother and the rest of his family in Aleppo. He says most Christians in Syria – who make up approximately 10 percent of the population – do want to see reform but fear the example of Iraq where the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 was followed by a persecution of Christianity that has since decimated the Christian population.
“Syrian Christians want to change and want to make Syria better but not with violence and killing the people. Saying ‘I will kill you if you don’t agree with me’ is not democracy.”