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Christians in Middle East: U.S. attack on Syria would be detrimental

NEW YORK (RNS) As the Obama administration considers a strike in response to recent chemical attacks, the head of a global evangelical group said Wednesday (Sept. 4) that Christians in the Middle East oppose military intervention in Syria.

"There is major consensus amongst the Christian leaders in this region that any military intervention would have a detrimental effect ... on Christians in Syria," wrote Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general/CEO of World Evangelical Alliance, in a letter to the State Department, the White House and the United Nation’s Security Council.

(From left) Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, World Evangelical Alliance representatives at the conference on Arab Christians. Photo courtesy Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe

(From left) Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, World Evangelical Alliance representatives at the conference on Arab Christians. Photo courtesy Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe

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Tunnicliffe was attending a meeting of Christian leaders in neighboring Jordan that included California megachurch pastor Rick Warren, “Touched by an Angel” actress Roma Downey and her “Survivor” creator husband Mark Burnett.

The group, convened by Jordan's King Abdullah II, met with about 70 Middle Eastern Christians to discuss the challenges facing Arab Christians.

“I couldn’t find a Christian leader at the conference who supported military intervention,” Tunnicliffe said in an interview. “The question is, how do you protect Christians if there’s a regime change?”

Tunnicliffe said two Syrian pastors told him independently that Christians have received threats from those who say a regime change would mean a takeover by Islamists who would force Christians out of the country.

Christian representatives from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan were present at the gathering, as well as a few Muslim clerics and academics. In his address, King Abdullah II urged interfaith harmony.

Photo of producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett of the Bible miniseries.

Producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett attend 'The Bible Experience' Opening Night Gala. Courtesy Shutterstock, http://shutr.bz/14Mz4nT

"We are proud that Jordan constitutes a unique model of coexistence and fraternity between Muslims and Christians," the king said. "We also believe that the protection of the rights of Christians is a duty rather than a favor."

U.S. and French leaders say Basher al-Assad's Syrian government used chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb on Aug. 21, killing 1,429 people, including more than 400 children. In talks on military intervention, President Obama has won the support of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, but faces significant opposition among religious and political leaders.

On Wednesday, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote to President Obama, urging him to shun military options, saying an attack "will be counterproductive, will exacerbate an already deadly situation and will have unintended negative consequences."

Dolan, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the bishops' international affairs committee, pushed the White House to "work urgently and tirelessly" for a ceasefire.

While she did not address Syria specifically in her presentation at the conference in Jordan, Downey noted her Catholic upbringing and her husband’s Protestant background, and the tension between these groups in her native Northern Ireland.

“Our marriage is a living example of tolerance and healing and of not allowing old hurts and discrimination to live on,” said Downey, who with her husband produced "The Bible" miniseries for The History Channel.

“We have come to believe that Christian unity is a critical element in responding to the global challenges we face today, including the difficulties of Arab Christians in the Middle East.”

Warren, who has been largely absent from the national and international scene since his son’s suicide in April, moderated a panel at the conference.

Tunnicliffe said that evangelical leaders are discussing future statements on intervention in Syria.

“I know people are aware of the crisis,” Tunnicliffe said, noting that the Middle East is overwhelmed with 2 million refugees from Syria. “I’m not sure they’re aware of the extent of the crisis.”

Pope Francis and King Abdullah II met at the Vatican last week, saying dialogue is the “only option” to end the conflict in Syria.



  1. The Christian leaders in the Middle East and Syria are the ones with “Boots on the ground” and they all want us to go away. How many must die to make Obama look good?? After he stuck his foot in his mouth!!!!

  2. Why are American Christians so silent on this? The entire middle east has been turned on its head since the G.W. Bush gang went into the region with guns a blazing. Obama continues the policy of destruction and destabilization. Christians have been targeted for eviction since day one. Is the ‘Christian’ west going to develop a safe haven for Christians? Don’t hold your breath!
    Jordan’s role is duplicitous since it works with the enemies of Syria (USA, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel) to destroy the very Christians in Syria that it claims to be hosting in Jordan – TOTAL HYPOCRISY! The west is working hand in hand with the Zionists to completely wreck the region for any but religious sectarians. The only ones actually defending Syria and its Christian population are the Russians (Orthodox Christians), Iranians (mainly Shia Muslim), Iraqis (both Sunni and Shia) and the Chinese (atheist, Buddhist and Confucian). Where is the spine of the western, supposedly Christian nations? This is not going to end well for anyone.

  3. You’re absolutely correct, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. Christianity has been in Syria for some 2,000 years; St. Paul was from Tarsus, a Syrian port city on the East Mediterranean coast.

    For a few centuries after the advent of Islam in the region, Christians and Muslims lived side-by-side peacefully, until the founding of the Zionist State of Israel in 1949. It is Israel that has been creating chaos and mayhem in the Middle East, including Syria. It is the Zionist entity that’s putting Christians in both Syria and Egypt in dire jeopardy; namely, by pushing sectarian conflict.

    Thanks, Sylvestre.

  4. True Christians would not take sides with or give support to either of two or more contending parties. It is a fact of ancient and modern day history that in every nation and under all circumstances true Christians have endeavored to maintain complete neutrality as to conflicts between factions of the world.

    “A careful review of all the information available goes to show that, until the time of Marcus Aurelius [Roman emperor from 161 to 180 C.E.], no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service.” -The Rise of Christianity (London, 1947), E.W. Barnes, p. 333.

    Matthew 26:52 : “Jesus said to him: ‘return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.'”

    2 Corinthians 10:3,4 : “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage warefare according to what we are in the flesh. For the weapons of our warefare are not fleshly, but powerful by God for overturning strongly entrenched things.” Paul here states here that ne never resorted to fleshly weapons, such as trickery, high sounding language, or carnal weapons, to protect the Christian congregation against false teachings.

  5. :Why are American Christians so silent on this?…”
    Well, we are mostly illiterate when it come to the Bible (most cannot even name the Ten Commandments) and though we have heroes of the faith, we only read the parts we like. We ought to heed the exhortation of Charles Spurgeon:
    “I wish that Christian men would insist more and more on the unrighteousness of war, believing that Christianity means no sword, no cannon, no bloodshed, and that, if a nation is driven to fight in its own defence, Christianity stands by to weep and to intervene as soon as possible…” http://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/

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