Bashar Assad and his intelligence network has succeeded, after the revolution, in maintaining bridges with the Syrian Christians, and has used these ties over time to infiltrate and manipulate large sections of their communities.
These bridges can be descibed in two categories: On the one hand are the clerics who use their canonical role to serve the regime and its security organs, just like Muslim clerics; on the other hand is the Shabbiha, including a mixture of thieves, fanatics and fools, funded, armed, trained and supervised by the intelligence services who have had extensive experience in implementing criminal acts.
The former chief of the State Security branch in Damascus, Bahjat Suleiman, described these tasks in response to the civil society movement as "comprising the community".
These ties present a fatal risk for the unity of the Syrian society and therefore it is important to meditate on this issue patiently.
Christians were drawn to the revolution in the beginning, and the majority were against Assad's regime. The revolution was represented among them, beyond any official presence, due to the involvement of a large number of Christian intellectuals, artists and university students in the demonstrations which started from mosques with participation of their Muslim brothers.
Famous martyrs fell among them, and some came from abroad to support and participate in the revolution. So, with some openness and positive communication, it would have been possible to get the support of large sections of the community, especially those who had no interest in opposing freedom or sacrificing for a regime who ignored their rights and had marginalized them throughout its reign.
The regime linked Christian clerics to his anti-Islamic plans, despite the fact that relations between Muslims and Christians were good and that tolerance and understanding between the two religious groups kept the eastern and Arab face of Christianity and maintained its position and role in the region.
Now, it is necessary to meditate over a dangerous phenomenon; the majority of those who were against the regime have now become its supporters, even though it has committed crimes against society and against tens of thousands of Christians who have been arrested, killed, persecuted or forced to flee to other countries.
But while the goals of the revolution were welcomed by Christians, who enthusiastically engaged in its ranks and made sacrifices for its victory, the revolution lost them without making a serious effort to prevent this from happening.
Why do large sections of the Syrian Christian community support a regime that is hostile to them and exposes them to serious risk,whether Assad wins or not?
There are a variety of answers to this question. However, since I am looking for a point suitable to explain what happened, I will say that the absence of a national democratic / secular action, beyond sectarian affiliations and sectarianism, prevented the opposition from seeing the reality of Syrias problems. This meant that some issues in the society were ignored or considered of minor importance compared with the question of power as the central political issue.
By contrast, the regime realized the importance of these issues in politics and worked to put them in the service of his battle against the revolution. The regime considered the revolution the only source of danger, and developed plans to control it and make it fail by penetrating its structure and changing its components. This explains his success in gaining the support of Christians who were against him, while the revolution lost them.
Can we establish, finally, national working bodies, including all Syrians with equal citizenship, away from sectarianism and sectarian affiliations? If we can, it is not too late . If we cannot, we have lost everything, and regime's knives will remain at our necks for a long time to come.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer