Calls by a Syriac Patriarch for young Syrians to take up arms and fight in pro-regime Christian militias have angered a large number of Christians who consider the statements "irresponsible", and risk dragging the community into the sectarian war.
The statements by Patriarch of Syriac Orthodox Afram the Second Karim came during an inspection visit to the displaced Syriac families from the city of Hassakeh living in the city of Qamishli, accompanied by Bishop Matta al-Khoury and priest Gabriel Daoud.
Daoud is widely known for his close ties to Damascus’ Air Force Security branch, having visited the region on numerous occasions to carry messages and instructions to the security heads and Syriac militias in Al-Jazeera province.
Khoshaba Dankha, a 53-year-old teacher, is one of the displaced Assyrians from the villages of al-Khabur. He described Patriarch Afram's statement which called on young Christian men to take up arms as irresponsible and unwise, "especially since ISIS kidnapped more than 200 Assyrians, and there are negotiations on their release, and such statements may impede the negotiations, or may even end them".
A Christian priest said he was surprised by the statements from the head of Syriac Orthodox Church, explaining: "the message of the cleric may go beyond the religious to the mundane, but his message should not contradict with the principles of the Christian faith, and the Church should stay committed to its mission and its role in crises".
The priest added: "we have not heard these kinds of calls from any patriarch before, despite the crises in Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt. These type of calls would degrade the prestige of the church and its historical role in spreading love and peace".
The Syriac Orthodox Church in the era of late Patriarch Zakka Iwas rejected violence since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, also rejecting the formation of People Protection Committees, also known as shabeeha, citing that maintaining the security of Christians and other citizens is the responsibility of the state, not the citizens themselves.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer