But as well as the tables of international diplomacy, something took place that seems to have gone unobserved: just a few days prior to this summit meeting (on the one side of the table Kerry and on the other the head of the Coalition of opponents Mouaz al Khatib), in Turkey and Antioch, the diocese of the five patriarchs of the East resident between Beirut and Damascus (Maronite, Greek-Catholic, Greek-Orthodox, Syro-Catholic, Syro-Orthodox), a number of Syrian Christian activists (the Christians make up about 7% of the population) met from 12 to 15 February to give life to a new body that they have called the ‘Union of Christian Syrians for democracy’.
Among those present were Michel Kilo, Father Spiridon Tannous, Ayman Abd al-Nour, Samir Sattouf, Bassam Bitar, Elias Warde, Michel Sattouf, Rouba Hanna, Isam Elias, Bassam Ma’luf and Bassam Khoury.
In recent years many of these figures have paid dearly for their opposition to Assad’s regime with prison or exile. We just have to think of the writer and activist for human rights Michel Kilo or Ayman Abd al-Nour, director of the online newspaper All4Syria, who left the country in 2007.
At the end of the meeting all those present signed a pact which in the first two points states the commitment of the signatories ‘to remain faithful to national union’ and ‘to defend with every means possible the right of the Syrian people to freedom, dignity and the possibility to choose their own model of political and social life’. The reference to national unity is not accidental, considering that one of the present dangers is the ‘Balkanisation’ of the country. The reference to the principle of citizenship is also important (point 3), which seems to implicitly target not only Assad’s regime but also the jihadist fighters who aim at establishing an Islamic state. The extremely hard task of the Christians of Syria is just this: to work to create room for freedom and reconciliation without subjection and complexes of protection, but at the same time with no naivety with respect to a possible jihadist drift (read the pact here).
The Antioch document, which President Bashar did not welcome at all insofar as it shows how the will to put an end to the regime is not exclusive to the groups of violent terrorists, as the state propaganda would have us believe (read Bashar’s reaction here).