Christians view Good Friday as a day of cruel suffering. Regardless of one’s religion, the death of an innocent man at the hands of Roman conquerors remains repugnant and repulsive. As the Roman Empire crumbled, the corpus of the crucified Jesus endured as a reminder of the hideousness that conquered people often endure.
Today, Good Friday hangs over Syria as an on-going symbol of how everyday citizens experience pain when the weapons of the government are aimed at them. We do well to weep for the Syrian people.
The March 24, 2013 edition of The New York Times ran a front-page story about Syrians being forced to live in ancient Roman caves to escape death by bombing and attacks. The United States estimates they are part of 4 million people who have been forced out of their homes. The caves appear to be the only escape for many. These damp, unlit caverns have been abandoned for centuries, but provide the only protection for many even though it is almost impossible to stay warm. In this cold, dark ancient shelter it is hard for those suffering deprivation not to blame the West for its lack of support in ending their struggle.
To make matters worse, doctors and surgeons have become targets of government attack. Six months ago, Syrians secret police captured Dr. M. Nour Maktabi in Aleppo. That was the last his family heard of him until they were summoned to collect his corpse. When the family last saw Dr. Maktabi, he weighted 200 pounds. His body covered with wounds now weighted less than a l00 pounds.
Medical personnel who help rebels (or are suspected of helping) simply disappear. To date, more than 100 doctors have been killed. In a country with an acute shortage of physicians, this carnage has forced everyone from medical students and nurses to car mechanics to perform minor surgery. Specialist are gone and machines like CT scanners are no longer working. Patients with chronic diseases like cancer or tuberculosis are virtually helpless.
France and Britain are pushing the European Union to lift an embargo on arms shipment to the rebels. However, other European nations continue to be skeptical about sending weapons into such a volatile region. The United States remains rightly concerned about arms falling into radical hands. However, this wall of resistance appears to be cracking. American CIA agents are now reported to be arming and assisting select rebel units that appear to be politically more stable.
These signs suggest the fall of Assad is in sight although the war drags on. However on this Good Friday, death hangs in the air. Pain and misery continue. These sufferings as well as the dying Jesus all arise out of the valley of death. As we rejoice in the approach of Easter Sunday, let us also pray for the Syrian people that they may be released from the underground caves so much like the tomb of Jesus. Let us continue to intercede for the medical community that their crucifixions will come to an end as well.
It doesn’t take long to understand how complex Middle Eastern struggles actually are. For example, The American State Department came up with the idea of a multibillion-dollar Iraqi police training program that was to be the centerpiece of a hugely expanded civilian mission. Since October, $500 million has already been spent. Now it turns out the Iraqi government didn’t want it in the first place, but no one asked them until after the money had been allocated. Now that the military is gone, the Iraqi government is aggressively asserting its sovereignty. And the police force idea is going down the drain. Sorry, State Department. You obviously didn’t pay enough attention to the locals.
Granted that it is much more difficult to know exactly what’s going on in Syria, but similar confusion appears to be ruling the day. Insiders appear to agree that Bashar Al-Assad is slowly hemorrhaging to death, but that’s not certain. Turkey currently hosts around 23,000 Syrian refugees running from Assad. Some fighting has spilled over into Lebanon. As Senator John McCain noted, “What is obvious and indisputable is that the Kofi Annan plan has failed.” What the cease fire idea actually accomplished was buying more buy for the Syrian regime to continue killing the opposition and civilians. However, citizens appear to have not given up their struggle to oust Assad.
Recently, Turkey’s prime minister personally addressed thousands of cheering Syrian refugees who had crossed into camps in Turkey. He proclaimed that Assad’s grip was growing weaker by the day and that victory was close. Whether his statement is true or not requires more information. The complete truth remains to be seen.
The Syrian regime has currently proposed elections in the near future. A new constitution was adopted that would limit a Syrian president to two seven-year terms Of course, Assad and his father ruled Syria for over 42 years. The idea of a new election in the midst of a civil war obviously hasn’t sparked enthusiasm.
The opposition immediately responded that without reforms any election would be meaningless. Haytham Manna, head of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, rejected the idea as ludicrous. He noted there are no characteristics of a normal election exist during war and upheaval. Assad appears only to be attempting to buy time – once again.
So where are we? Key constituencies supporting Assad include religious minorities such as Christians and Alawites. Both groups fear what a takeover by Sunni Muslim’s would do to them. (Assad is a Alawite, an off-shoot of Shiite Islam.)
Russia and China continue to attempt to shield the regime from harsh diplomatic sanctions. In a former blog, I pointed out that Russia is making millions (probably billions) by supply military arms and equipment to Syria. War lines the Russian pockets with gold. Western powers, including Turkey, remain unwilling to use force against Syria. The result? Stalemate.
Turkey prime minister told the refugees, “Sooner or later, those who have oppressed our Syrian brothers will be accounted for before their nation. Your victory is close.”
Sorry. Not close enough! (518 words)
Question: How long do you think the Assad regime can endure? By the way, why doesn’t the American government pay better attention to the daily circumstances unfolding in these foreign governments?