Syria: President Bashir al-Assad has a staunch friend in the Church

assad_1878469c1.jpgAcross Syria, President Bashir al-Assad is facing huge and angry protests against his rule, but he has a staunch friend in the Church.
 President Bashar Assad meets with Ghassan Mustafa Abdul-Aal, the new governor of the central province of Homs, following the oath-taking ceremony in Damascus Photo: EPA By Richard Spencer 9:30PM BST 21 Apr 2011
“We are with the government and against these movements that oppose it,” said Bishop Philoxenos Mattias, a spokesman for the Syriac Orthodox Church.

“Here in Syria we do not have problems like Christians in other countries. We have no problem with the president.”

The experience of neighbouring Iraq is a salutary lesson for Christians across the Middle East. Many disliked the brutality of Saddam Hussein’s regime as much as his other subjects, but what has come since has been incomparably worse.

In the violence, much of it sectarian, that swept the country after the coalition invasion, both Christians and occupations traditionally carried out by Christians, such as selling alcohol, were targeted for the first time. More than 60 churches have been bombed, hundreds killed for their faith and the Catholic Archbishop of Mosul was two years ago abducted and murdered.

More than half the Christian population are estimated to have fled the country.