With the capture of the Syrian Christian town of Ma’alula, a town of approximately five thousand just north of Damascus bodes ill for yet another ancient Christian community. The residents of Ma’alula actually still speak Aramaic just as they had when they took to Christianity as some of its first converts. The town holds numerous ancient churches, monasteries and shrines from the earliest years of Christianity and there are many who fear these irreplaceable relics of history could end up being destroyed or altered into Mosques. The people are also possibly in danger similar to the situation the Coptic Christians find themselves facing in Egypt. Ma’alula was captured after five days of fighting falling to the al-Nusra Front, a rebel group that has sworn allegiance to al-Qaida, the conservative Islamist rebel group Ahrar al Sham and the more mainstream Farouk Brigade. The one fortunate occurrence thus far is that the Syrian military had fought for the town with the rebel forces in the area for five days but retreated from Ma’alula before it had sustained serious damage to its ancient buildings. The question now is what will come as time unfolds, is it possible that the Islamists will allow these Christians to continue to reside in peace only requiring they pay the Jizya and accept Dhimmi restrictions.
There is another result which may be born of this situation which can also be applied to any other location within the areas where there is Arab uprisings resulting from the Arab Winter. The Obama administration has been hovering between striking in Syria as a response to the utilization of chemical weapons on the population and the battlefield by Bashir al-Assad and finding some justification for backing off the red line threat. President Obama has been wavering between these two positions often turning on a dime seeming to be searching for the one unarguable justification which would unite everyone either giving him the moral backing to either act or the perfect reason for walking away. Despite the fact that should the Syrian military decides to try and retake Ma’alula from the occupying rebel forces there would be a definite probability that there would be collateral damage destroying the ancient and irreplaceable buildings. Add to that the human casualties which President Obama could use as a further reason to enter the Syrian conflict. Since there have been strong indications which side President Obama has chosen as there have been atrocities committed by both sides yet only the Syrian military has been held to any standard by the President.
But then, by using the possible slaughter of one of the oldest Christian communities in the world to reinforce President Obama’s argument and having not even mentioned the similarly ancient Coptic Christians who are facing horrific evil in Egypt would be being duplicitous, and even more so as there have not been demands the United States intervene if the Egyptian government refuses to protect them. Such an argument using the expectation that in order to be considered a civilized force that is accepted by the rest of the world, all sides in the Arab conflicts which have spread across much of the Middle East and North Africa need to protect all peoples equally, be they Muslim or be they Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Sheikh, Bahá’í, Jewish, Taoist or any other religious system or belief system and end the unjustifiable persecution of any non-Muslim religion. By making this the stated position for acceptance in the world community President Obama could finally have acted in a manner justifying his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize simply because he won the election for President. Obviously the Nobel Committee had reasoned that President Obama was destined to act in some manner so as to commit the pinnacle act which would be transformational making the entirety of Earth a far better and more unified and accepting place where everybody has value and can expect equal treatment and opportunity. Having President Obama actually live up to the expectations which so many different people, institutions, and both governmental and nongovernmental organizations had expressed they were expecting to emanate from his Presidency would make his entire Presidency truly inspirational and transformational making Barack Obama far more than just the first American President of color but one of the truly great Presidents placing beside Presidents Washington, Lincoln and Kennedy. Should he make such a stand and use everything at his command including uniting the majority of the world behind such a noble cause using or separate from the United Nations, then the time will have come to get the hammers and chisels into motion adding one more head on Mount Rushmore; he would have earned such a placing. Hey, just because I have had my differences with a number of President Obama’s policies, that does not mean I cannot also hold out great hopes.
Beyond the Cusp