From Faith And Heritage
Contrary to these horrors being inflicted upon Christians by the FSA, President Assad’s rule over the Christian community of Syria has greatly resembled Cyrus the Great. In the book of Ezra, King Cyrus the Great of Persia was used by God to protect persecuted Hebrews, allowing them to return to the Holy Land and rebuild their temple. Assad has acted in a similar manner in allowing Christians to be safe and secure in an Islam-dominated country. Assad’s grace towards the Christian church has not been limited to “separate but equal” style policies, but also extends to the inner circles of his government, where he has included many Christians in cabinet positions. Under Assad, Christians were allowed to govern themselves and even be reverenced as a part of Syria’s ancient heritage. The only restriction that President Assad placed upon Christians was that they not overtly convert Muslims or accept Muslim converts as a means to ensure stability. He furthermore allowed Christians to have their own courts for church-related issues, such as marriage and inheritance, and defended them against Islamist persecution and terror. Not bad, given the Church’s 2000-year history of continued persecution. Compared to secular leaders’ treatment of Christians in the West, Assad is far more tolerant and gracious to his Christian subjects than the secular-dominated United States, Canada, and Europe are to their Christian citizens. Though Assad is not the ideal Christian autocrat, he is the best thing Christians have seen in the region since the Byzantine Empire, the Crusader states, or European colonialism.
Secondly, Assad is not a throwback Bedouin. Unlike many of the tribal-like leaders of other Middle Eastern nations, who take pride in clitoridectomies and pedophilia, Assad is a Western-educated intellectual who takes pride in modernizing without being a modernist. Before Assad rose to power, he proved himself by graduating from the school of medicine at the University of Damascus in 1988 and volunteered to serve his country as a medical doctor in the army. Later, he went to complete his postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom, studying ophthalmology at the Western Eye Hospital in London. Upon returning to Syria and the death of his elder brother, Assad studied at the Syrian military academy before he assumed the presidency of Syria.
This is not the background of a radical ideologue, wrapped up in a fundamentalist understanding of the Koran. Assad’s reign has been one of ruthless oppression, but against whom? Certainly not the general population or the Christians who have flourished under his rule; rather, he oppressed the Islamist sects, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, that sought to displace him and establish an Islamic caliphate. Assad’s main objective was the retaining of power for his Arab nationalist Ba’ath Party, and he was ready to crush any opposition in the process. It is therefore plausible to assume that if Christians were a threat to his power, he would have targeted them as well, but given that the principles of the Ba’ath Party are not necessarily a threat to Christianity, and given that Christians are called to obey lawful government, they have every reason to stand by Assad and against Islamism.
Understanding Assad’s upbringing and education is essential. Assad’s ruthlessness as a leader stems not from an Islamist worldview, but rather from a nationalist, pro-Syrian worldview. He is without a doubt a Muslim, and he supports much of the Islamic heritage of Syria, but he is moreover a fervent Syrian nationalist and views the Christian communities of Syria as a part of that legacy.
It says something about the state of the world when a Muslim is being pointed to as good for Christians.