As of early September, 2013, the world has been shocked by reports of chemical weapons being used in the civil war in Syria. Numerous reports in the media argue that President Bashar al-Assad was behind these attacks. This horrible tragedy surely deserves at least some response. But what kind of response?
Philip Jenkins is a renowned evangelical historian at Baylor University. He has studied extensively the history of Christianity in the Middle East and the rest of the Mediterranean region. Jenkins recently wrote an editorial piece giving his view that the lessons of church history should give American leaders caution in their response to the situation in Syria. In particular, will a military intervention in Syria help or hurt the existing Christian community in Syria?
Jenkins’ position is that military intervention in Syria will not only hurt the Christians, it could ultimately lead to the annihilation of the Christian community in that country. Pretty strong words.
Sadly, many American Christians are largely ignorant about the history of Christianity in this part of the world. As I have tried to show with the recent situation in Egypt, the issues are exceedingly complex. Frankly, I am not sure what the clear answer is on what to do. But what I do know is that most Christians in the Middle East and particularly in Syria itself oppose outside intervention into Syria’s internal problems. Assad is not the nicest guy in the world. That much is over-abundantly clear. But Christians in the region have looked to Assad and his family for many years for at least some protection from Islamic extremists. What will happen to an already persecuted church if the country is further destabilized?
Perhaps you might have a completely different view. Perhaps Jenkins is mistaken. There is much that I do not know. Nevertheless, as a Christian in America what I do know that it is my duty and responsibility to listen to my brothers and sisters in Christ in Syria and make a better effort to fully understand their history and appreciate their situation today in view of the present crisis.