20th September 2012
By Nic Robertson
Damascus — As the 18-month-long Syrian conflict festers, the government and the opposition welcome and need Christian support.
But some Christians fear radical Islamists have been swelling rebel ranks.
They also fear the same fate as a number of Christians during the war in Iraq, where militants targeted them and spurred many to leave the country.
CNN’s Nic Robertson recently spoke with Syrian Christians in the Damascus countryside town of Maaloula.
Christians make up roughly 10% of the population. Syria is ruled by a government dominated by Alawites, whose faith is an offshoot of Shiism. The regime is opposed by an opposition with a large Sunni presence.
Some Christians support the government, others the opposition. Many want to know what an opposition government would mean for them and are apprehensive.
Antoinette Nassrallah, the Christian owner of a cafe, said she has seen government TV images depicting radical Muslim attacks on Christians. She said she has heard about such violence in Aleppo.
“We used to have a lot of tourists. But now, since last year, we never had any.”
Maria Saadeh, a newly elected parliament member, calls herself independent and says she’s in the middle. She doesn’t criticize President Bashar al-Assad but wants change through talk, not violence.
She ponders the government’s fight against the opposition and the opposition’s intentions. “We can’t ask the government to stop if we have terrorism in our land.”
Pelagia Sayaf, mother superior at a monastery, doesn’t know whether a post-Assad era will be good or bad. But she says the president loves his people. She proudly displays a picture of him and his wife visiting the convent’s orphans last year.
“The president,” she said, “we know him.”
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