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U.S. 'on wrong side' in Syrian civil war

Syrian Orthodox church building in Homs damaged by rebels (Photo by Martin Janssen)

The U.S. government is misguided in its support of the rebels fighting to overthrow the Syrian regime, because Christians and other religious majorities are faring better under Bashar al-Assad, according to two activists who have recently returned from the region.

“There is no place where the Christians can go. They have no place to go,” said Religious Freedom Coalition President William Murray after his return from a trip to Jordan.

Nearly the entire Christian population of the Syrian city of Homs – about 80,000 people – have fled Syria to refugee camps in neighboring Jordan.

Dutch human rights writer Martin Janssen, who himself fled the violence in Homs, told WND the rebels are increasingly turning their sights on the Christians.

“The rebels took everything as war booty,” he said, citing a Dutch priest who lives in Homs.

“The big Christian community of Damascus, the city of the apostle Paul, lives in terror,” Janssen said. “They are hiding in their homes fearing the ongoing violence. Will the churches of Damascus be next?”

Janssen noted the rebels openly announced their ultimate intentions as they entered the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus Wednesday, shouting their desire to restore the Islamic Caliphate.

“They are trying to draw the approximately half million Palestinians into the battle for Damascus,” Janssen said.

He said his first concern, however, “is the deteriorating position of the Middle-East Christians and the bleak future of Christianity in the region.”

Janssen worries about the long-term impact of the advances of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East on Christians. His concern is prompted by the election of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi as president of Egypt, where an estimated 10 percent of the population identifies as Christian.

He believes, however, the situation in Syria isn’t beyond repair, because there are groups in the country working to bring about a peaceful resolution.

Janssen noted he has written articles aimed at bringing the Syrian reconciliation movement Musalaha to the attention of the West.

“The problem is that the Dutch media doesn’t have much of a presence in the region, because of the differences in our language from other European languages, and it’s harder to get accurate translations,” Janssen said.

The devil you know

After his conversations with Syrian refugees, Murray is convinced the U.S. government needs to recognize Christians in Syria are better off under Assad.

Christians in Syria were very prosperous, he said, living under the last secular government in the region after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq and Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya.

Desecrated church in Homs, Syria (Photo by Martin Janssen)

“It’s not Egypt, like so many people believe,” Murray said. “The Christians of Syria, because it’s a secular government, Christians had better representation in government and business.”

Murray said Christians in Syria “were dealing with the devil you know versus the devil you don’t and were backing the Assad regime.”

“They did this because they knew whatever replaces Assad will be a lot worse,” he said.\

He pointed out the rebels come mostly from Homs, a hotbed of Islamist activity.

As WND reported in April 2011, rebels fighting to overthrow Gadhafi were connected to al-Qaida and other jihadist groups.

Murray said he found evidence of fundamentalist Islamic opposition to the Assad regime in the refugee camp. He spoke with a Muslim family patriarch who claims the regime disrespected Islam.

The man cited as an example the fact that his daughter, a medical student, was told at the end of her first year of school she would have to remove her Islamic facial veil and be identified if she wanted to take her exams.

Murray said the situation for religious minorities will only get worse with the news Thursday that rebels took control of two major crossings on the border with Turkey and the main post on the border with Iraq.

He expects now to see a flow of Iraqi al-Qaida fighters into Syria.

Bad intentions

Murray contends the U.S. has miscalculated the intentions of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“I think this is a bandwagon movement in our government: The Muslim Brotherhood is winning. We’ll let them win and maybe we can work with them to make them more moderate,” he said.

Lady of Peace Cathedral in Homs, Syria (Photo by Martin Janssen)

“No, they’re as moderate as they are because they’re on the outside,” Murray said. “Once they get on the inside, any moderation is going to vanish.”

He points a finger at Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, who previously called for arming the Libyan rebels – including some tied to groups fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan – and now wants to aid Syrian rebels.

“This man has gone nuts, John McCain. It’s constantly, ‘Overthrow this’ and ‘Overthrow that,’” Murray said.

“It’s whoever is fighting to overthrow a government, give them guns with no sense of outcome or to whom they’re giving the guns,” Murray said.

Murray said McCain is “worse than Obama” on the issue.

“There are elements of al-Qaida in there, and McCain is screaming about giving them guns. Murray said.

Murray also pointed to McCain’s speech in the Senate in which the senator defended Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s assistant, Huma Abedin, against charges by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and others that Abedin’s family has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

WND reported Bachmann’s 16-page letter regarding the Muslim Brotherhood and Abedin misses what may be one of the most troubling radical connections – Abedin’s family is directly tied to the Muslim World League.

The Muslim World League is an Islamic charity known to have spawned terrorist groups, including one declared by the U.S. government to be an official al-Qaida front.