Al-Rahi: Syria's Christians Support Stability, Not Regimeإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Syria's Christians do not support the regime of President Bashar Assad, but they do want stability in the war-torn country, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi told Agence France Presse on Thursday.
"I tell Westerners who say that we (Christians) are with the Syrian regime that we are not with regimes, we are with the state. There is a big difference," al-Rahi said in an exclusive interview, a week before the arrival in Lebanon of Pope Benedict XVI.
"In Iraq, when Saddam Hussein was removed, we lost a million Christians," he said at the patriarchal residence in Diman in northwest Lebanon. "Why? Not because the regime fell, but because there was no more authority, there was a vacuum."
"In Syria, it's the same thing, Christians do not back the regime but they are afraid of what may come next, that is their feeling," said al-Rahi.
The Maronites, who are the largest Christian denomination in Lebanon, are only a minority among fellow believers in neighboring Syria, where their roots originally lie.
The conflict in Syria has spilled over into Lebanon, where both Christians and Muslims alike are divided into supporters and opponents of the Damascus regime.
These differences have sparked deadly sectarian battles, mostly in Tripoli, Lebanon's second city in the north.
"In Lebanon, we must try to build unity... it cannot be done by magic," said the patriarch.
He also hoped that Pope Benedict XVI will insist on delivering a message calling for "coexistence" between Muslims and Christians when he visits Lebanon on September 15-16.