A Republican congressman said last week that any potential U.S. military intervention in the Syrian civil war would be justified, in part, to protect Syria’s Christian population and preserve the region’s Christian roots.
According to Defense News, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) told reporters after a classified briefing on Syria that he favors military intervention in Syria “to preserve the region that was home to Christianity’s genesis”: “
“There’s a huge US interest in the region. Our commitment to the Levante is long-standing, partially because of our relationship with Israel and with Lebanon,” Issa told a handful of reporters after leaving a classified briefing on the Syria intel assessment and possible US options.
“Partially, if you will, because of this being an area of the Holy Land,” Issa added. “The oldest churches. So much of Christianity is there.”
Issa’s correct that Syria’s history is rooted in Christianity. “Syria’s Christian community is one of the oldest in the world, going back two millennia,” the BBC notes, adding that “Christians are believed to have constituted about 30% of the Syrian population as recently as the 1920s. Today, they make up about 10% of Syria’s 22 million people.”
And Syria’s Christian communities have been caught in the sectarian cross-fire throughout the ongoing civil war there. “Some minority communities, including Christians, Kurds and Turkmen, have also been caught up in the conflict,” said U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria chairPaulo Pinheiro in December upon releasing a report finding that Syria’s civil war is increasingly sectarian in nature.
But while protecting Christians, or any religion, from violent persecution is usually generally accepted as a positive global good, introducing another sectarian justification for violence — particularly some kind of crusade by the United States — into an already chaotic civil war fueled by deep religions convictions is probably not the best way forward in Syria.