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Asia

2012-03-29

ASIA/SYRIA - The fears of the minorities in Syria: the Armenians and plans for a "new exodus"

Aleppo (Agenzia Fides) - Prayer and expectation, fears and hopes: with this attitude, the small Armenian community in Syria, almost entirely Christian, live the present historical phase, marked by violence, conflict, aspirations for freedom and rights that are "from below". As reported to Fides, the Armenians living in Syria receive support and solidarity from all the brethren in other nations of the world: in past days more than 100 faithful Armenian Turks visited a church in Iskenderun, in the Turkish province of Hatay, celebrating a Mass and praying for peace in Syria.
Currently, the vast ethnic and religious mosaic that makes up the Syrian society, about 60000-80000 Armenians live in Syria, concentrated mainly in Aleppo, but also present in Damascus, Latakia, Kessab, Der Zor, Qamishli, Raqqa and in other areas.
A Syrian Armenian faithful, who prefers to remain anonymous, told Fides: "Most- he explains - Armenians maintain a position of neutrality towards the Syrian crisis, and this is the official position of the Armenian Church (in different denominational articulations). Many faithful still prefer stability: a change is scary, an Islamic theocracy or a state of lawlessness and instability is feared". However, at an individual level, there are community members who participate in the protests and have joined the opposition, as have some Alawites, Assyrians and Kurds.
There are fears for the future of the Armenian Christian community: in general, in Syria as in the Middle East, they are often perceived as "people moving into the country for a short-stay". Therefore, explains the Fides source, "if one cannot conceive the Armenians as part of the social fabric in Syria today, how can one ensure the future of the community tomorrow?". This is why, since the beginning of the uprising, the Armenians in the world have proposed solutions such as "exit plans" or mass moves for 60 thousand Armenians, Syrians.
Armenian political parties are banned in Syria. The Armenians have their own institutions and schools, but with some limitations: for example they are not allowed to teach Armenian history and can teach the Armenian language only for a certain number of hours per week. The Armenians, in fact, are recognized as a "religious community" and not as an "ethnic community", their language is permitted only because it is a "liturgical language" used in the worship of churches.
"This is a period of uncertainty for the Syrian Armenian community", said the Fides source. "As Armenian Christians in this country, they want to uphold the principles of justice, humanity, peace, and the rights of the poor, rejecting oppression, injustice and violence". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 29/3/2012)

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