Nina Shea’s post below refers to the dangers faced by “Syria’s sizeable but defenseless Christian minority” who are the most vulnerable group in the country “since they have no militias or army to protect them.” She writes that:
The American people and their political representatives must raise the issue of reprisals against Christians and other minorities. It is clear that neither our allies on the ground nor Prince Bandar and their other benefactors in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf care.
But “raising the issue” is irrelevant, I’m afraid. While our government should stay out of the Syrian war altogether, the private energies of those of us concerned for the well-being of the remaining Christians of the Middle East should not be directed toward appeals to the “international community” and similar non sequiturs. Instead, they need guns, to be able to form their own militias.
Christians living under the Jim Crow regime prescribed by Islam are generally prohibited from owning weapons and, even if they could get away with it, as is likely the case today in Syria, they have no Saudi benefactors to supply them. But in those places where they have been able to get their hands on weapons, they succeeded in protecting themselves, albeit at great cost. The Maronites in Lebanon already had a militia, since they still occupied a discrete territory, and they weren’t going to wait around to be driven into the sea when the Palestinians started that country’s civil war. A few years later, the Armenians of Karabagh avoided a replay of the jihad-genocide of 1915 only because they had guns to protect themselves from the Azeri Turks.
There are maybe 3 million Christians in Syria, more than enough to form armed bands to protect their villages and urban neighborhoods. It’s true that they belong to a dizzying array of communities: several flavors of Orthodox, several kinds of uniate Catholics, Armenians, Nestorian Assyrians, Monophysite Assyrians, and more. Whether they can join for mutual protection — since they all look alike to the jihadis — or form their own communal militias is up to them, but either way, the most useful role American Christians can play is as the Syrian Christians’ outside backup, like the Saudis are for the Sunni jihadis and the Iranians are for the Alawites.
My ancestors learned the hard way the futility of “raising the issue” of Muslim persecution of Christians to the international community, and the Sermon of the Iron Ladle distills the lesson. It was delivered by Mgrdich Khrimian, a prominent Armenian prelate, a genuine holy man with the common touch but also a national leader. As he related in Constantinople after his return, he’d been sent to the Congress of Berlin in 1878 to represent the interests of the Armenians and came back empty-handed. Using the metaphor of a pot of stew, he said the Serbs and Bulgarians and other nations who brought iron ladles to the conference — arms, and the military success that came with them — take their share of the stew. But Khrimian approached with only a paper ladle, petitions begging the great powers to heed the cries of his enslaved compatriots, and got nothing:
Dear Armenian people. Could I have dipped my paper ladle in the heriseh [stew]? It would have become wet and stayed there. There, where guns talk and swords make noise, what significance do appeals and petitions have? . . . In my hand was placed a piece of paper and not a sword. For this reason we were deprived of the heriseh.
Khrimian’s advice to his fellow Christians living under the shadow of Islam is as pertinent now was it was in 1878:
“when you return to the Fatherland, to your relatives and friends, take weapons, take weapons and again weapons.”