Kass: Syrian Christians largely ignored in debate over U.S. intervention

They are not supportive of Assad's reported cruelty, such as the alleged chemical attacks. But they also want President Obama to know this:

"If the president drops missiles and destabilizes the government, the Christians left in Syria will be destroyed," said Marwan Baghdan. "They will have no protection. Our families are there. Our brothers and sisters. Our parents. And they're very scared."

Sausan Yazji spoke of Wadi al-Nasara (Valley of Christians), where many remaining Syrian Christians have gone to seek refuge.

"My uncle was 80 years old and was shot by a sniper in the stomach in his bed," she said. "Many people have come to Wadi al-Nasara. Entire families are crowded into one room. They're afraid to worship."

Gassan Mohama talked of his youth in Damascus years ago.

"Most of my friends are Muslims," he said. "We lived together as brothers. We played together and studied together. And some have turned to another way. And there is misery."

The ancient Syrian city of Maaloula, where Aramaic is still spoken, was taken by extremist Islamists the other day. The New York Times focused on the rebels' awareness of their "public relations problem."

"They filmed themselves talking politely with nuns, instructing fighters not to harm civilians or churches, and touring a monastery that appeared mostly intact," the Times reported

Obviously, you can find Syrian Christians who will paint a much different picture.

"There is a purification campaign and jihadist elements among the rebels who see Christianity as blasphemy," Shea told me. "History has shown what happens to Christians in the Middle East during times of chaos. It happened during the Armenian genocide, and most recently in Iraq and Egypt, with churches burned to the ground."

And now it is happening in Syria.

When a powerful nation like ours prepares for war, what is not in the news, what is not included in the rhetoric, can often be as telling as the large bold type in the official statements.

And among the pro-war elites in Washington, the plight of the Syrian Christians, and their brethren throughout the Middle East, is often pointedly forgotten, and pointedly ignored.

jskass@tribune.com

Twitter @John_Kass

CHICAGO

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