The Roman Orthodox Archbishop in Syria, Luca Khoury, has called on every Christian man capable of carrying arms to defend Syrian churches and monasteries against vandalism at the hands of what he called “armed groups”.
Khoury said young people are demanding action to stop threats against Christian neighborhoods which he said are being systematically targeted to damage the peaceful, historical and cultural identity of Christianity.
Khoury’s comments mark the first public call for Christians to join the war in Syria.
"We first started to pray for the release of the nuns who were kidnapped in Maloula and a number of Maloula residents came asking if they could pray for them in the church,” Khoury told Zaman al-Wasl following battles in the Christian city of Maloula, in Damascus countryside and the kidnap of 12 nuns from the convent of St Techla there.
“We had many young people asking us to take immediate action, so we are now waiting for instructions from the Patriarchate. We will wait no more than two days until we start to move to take special measures, because our young people are ready to fight and defend themselves,” he said.
“Christians were people of prayer and peace, but today it seems that neither prayer nor peace are useful,” he added.
In response to a question about whether this amounted to a call to bear arms, Khoury said: “Of course it is a call to arms. I invite every young man capable of carrying arms to do so.”
Regarding the kidnapped nuns, Khoury confirmed their wellbeing, but described them as being in a “neighbor's house”.
"Those in a neighbor's house are obliged to speak as the neighbor wants,” he said, indicating the nuns had been forced to speak.
He said there are efforts underway to release the nuns and expressed hope that these efforts would yield positive results.
Khoury said “militants” want to empty Syria, not only of Christians, but of all those they target on the basis of historic, cultural or religious identity.
“They kill every person that does not support them,” he said.
Khoury accused the whole world of a “joint conspiracy against Syria”, asking, “to whom do we send a message if all the humanitarian agencies of the United Nations and international organizations say that the Syrian regime is killing its people?”
“What did the U.N. do for Syria?” he asked, adding, “Let it stop the flow of arms, and put pressure on the countries that support the militants and push them to fight.”
Translated and edited by the Syrian Observer