ASIA/SYRIA - George Sabra, Christian spokesman of the opposition: "It will be a new democratic Syria, guarantees for everyone"

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Milan (Agenzia Fides) – We are "at the beginning of the end for the Syrian regime." "A new page of national history is about to open." And the new Syria will be democratic, potentially lay, reconciled and free from oppression: is what George Sabra, a Christian, spokesman for the "Syrian National Council", the representative body of the front of the Syrian opposition, says in an interview with Fides Agency. The spokesman reassured the Christian communities in Syria that their future will be guaranteed "in accordance with principles of democracy, citizenship and freedom." Fides interviewed him at the eve of a meeting held today, July 18, in Milan by the Jesuit magazine "Popoli".

George Sabra, how do you judge the Syrian crisis that has worsened in these hours?

It is a critical stage. I guess we are at the beginning of the end for the regime. There are fierce battles in Damascus and the Syrian army bomb the neighborhoods of the capital. It is a regime, a minority occupying power, which makes war on its own people.
How would you rate the efforts of reconciliation born in Syrian civil society, to rebuild a frayed social fabric?
Reconciliation is very important, it is the way to national unity. We strongly support it, today and in the near future. We will do our best to prevent forms of violence in all parts of the country. We want to open a new page in the history of the nation and every member of society will be able to share and contribute to building the future of Syria. In the differences and pluralism, the Syrian people are united: we are all part of one people.

What is the situation of Christians like in Syria today?

I must say that, at the beginning, unfortunately, the churches did not believe in the revolution. Then there are hundreds of Christians arrested, like other citizens, for revolutionary activities: I was also arrested last year, with 14 other Christian members of my village. As months go by, the Christians have begun to share our ideals of the revolution in Syria and abroad. We want to clearly say that in the future there will be no danger to them.

It seems there are Salafi groups and Islamist among the revolutionary fighters: How do you respond?

On the one hand I can say that some reports are exaggerated: there are no groups allied with Al Qaeda. The Islamists are there, but we know them, they are part of our society and we know how to deal with them. They are in the Syrian National Council and have signed the "Damascus Declaration" (where the front of the opposition reiterates the principles of democracy and freedom, ed). Even the Muslim Brotherhood announced last month that they will accept non-Muslim members to the government and also for the presidency of the country if the people decide. It is a sign of good will on their part.

How can you reassure the minorities? How can one guarantee that the new Syria will be a secular, democratic and free state, that will protect them?

I believe that democracy is the only way that protects the majority and minorities. It is dictatorship that has oppressed the entire country, majority and minorities. We need to true representatives of the Syrian people to rule Syria. We reaffirm the concept of "citizenship": all Syrian citizens in any community or belonging to any religion, are equal and have the same rights. As far as the secular state is concerned, I can say that, personally, it is a principle that I support strongly, and my party supports. But it will be the Syrian people to choose what to write in the Constitution. We will fight, in the political arena, for the principle of a secular state, but the decision will be up to the people and must be respected.

What is the role of Christians in the new Syria?

The role and status of Christians will be the same they lived in the past democratic Syria: I mean the middle of last century, when we had a Christian Prime Minister and a Christian President in Parliament. Democracy gives to minorities, and therefore the Christian community, the opportunity to show their ability, their specificity, their attachment and their contribution to the country.

What are your hopes for Syria?

We have suffered too much in the last 40 years. We now hope for a free Syria. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 18/7/2012)