As events in Syria and Lebanon are making the situation on the ground ever more desperate, it appears that the only force that seems to maintain the promise of stability is Turkey. Even when minorities in the civil war zone are angry at the Turks, it is because they expect them to do more to maintain the peace in the lands where their Empire once ruled.
A case in point was the demonstration in Lebanon today, protesting the kidnapping of religious Christians ourtside Damascus.
The head of the Greek Orthodox Levant Party Rodrigue Khoury announced on Sunday “the beginning of an organized campaign” against Turkey in Lebanon and the world in response to the abduction of bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi and 12 nuns in Syria, Naharnet reported.
“We Christians protected our Muslim brothers when they came under attacks and we will defend them today as well in the face of takfiris (Islamist extremists),” Khoury said during a sit-in organized by his group outside the Turkish embassy in Rabieh, a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon.
“The Levant will not surrender its neck to you and we will not allow your thieves and terrorists to desecrate Antioch,” Khoury declared, addressing Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and accusing him of supporting the rebel groups that kidnapped the bishops and the nuns.
He went on to say: “We are part of a vast civilization that extends from Lebanon to Athens and Moscow. We repeat what we had said in the past: do not bet that we are a minority.”
Jihadists and opposition fighters on Monday entered the Syrian Christian town of Maalula and took 12 Lebanese and Syrian Greek Orthodox nuns from the Mar Takla Monastery to the Yabrud area in Qalamoun, near Damascus. The Vatican condemned this abduction.
The 12 nuns join two bishops and a priest who are already believed to be held by rebels in the Aleppo area, deepening concerns that extremists in the opposition’s ranks are targeting Christians.
The Qalamoun region has a large Christian population. Church leaders and pro-rebel activists said the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front seized the nuns from the Mar Takla convent, in the ancient Christian village of Maalula, in Qalamoun.
Maalula used to be a popular tourist attraction before the Syrian civil war began. Some of its residents still speak a dialect of Aramaic.
Rodrigue Khoury announced “the beginning of a campaign aimed at unveiling the fate of the two bishops and liberating the nuns.”
“You will witness a campaign against your interests that will only end when we know the fate of our saints,” he added.
In response to a reporter’s question, Khoury said “the campaign will not only involve one of Turkey’s interests in Lebanon and the world, but will rather be an organized campaign and we will be in a legal confrontation with the Turks.”
“We will not reveal the means but we will stay under the law and Turkey will see our steps,” he added.
Speaking at the sit-in, Sheikh Abbas Zgheib, who had been tasked by the Higher Islamic Shiite Council to follow up on the issue of the Aazaz abductees, said “the kidnapping of the bishops and nuns and the rest of hostages is not only of concern to the Christians of the Levant.”
“We declare our solidarity with our Christian brothers and tell them that we share the same wound. We tell Turkey that should these groups seize control of Syria, Turkey will never know tranquility,” Zgheib added.
He accused Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea of offering support to extremist groups in Syria, warning him that he would also be targeted by these groups should they infiltrate Lebanon.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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