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  15 February 2012  | 15:46  . ET

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Events in Syria could lead to genocide: Rai
By: The Daily Star 
Published : 5/9/2011 22:07


Rai: “Are we heading in Syria toward a Sunni-Alawite civil war?"  

“I say and look toward France to think seriously of what would be next. Are we heading in Syria toward a Sunni-Alawite civil war? This, then, is a genocide and not democracy and reform. Are we heading toward a division of Syria to mini sectarian states?” Rai said in an interview with France 24.

Rai said the international community must do more than simply “inflame wars” in Arab countries, and consider what might follow political change.

“What we are asking the international community and France is not to rush into resolutions that strive to change regimes,” Rai added.

The bloody crackdown on the five-month anti government uprising in Syria has been met with heavy criticism from the international community and calls for President Bashar Assad to step down.

The United Nations Security Council issued a statement on Aug. 4 condemning violence there, which Lebanon later disassociated itself from.

There are also fears that the toppling of Assad's government could be followed by increased sectarian tension and conflict between the Sunni Muslim majority and the minority Alawite sect to which Assad belongs.

Rai, who is scheduled to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his eight-day visit to France, voiced fears over the fate of minorities, particularly Christians, in the Arab world in the event of regime change, citing Iraq as an example.

“They wanted a democracy in Iraq and this democracy claimed many lives … the international community and France should think about where we are heading. Is it toward extremist, violent governments or toward dividing the Arab world?” Rai said.

Following the invasion of Iraq in 2003 which toppled President Saddam Hussein’s government, the country experienced sectarian conflict coupled with an insurgency that has so far left more than 60,000 Iraqi civilians dead, according to NGOs.

“We are worried about Christian presence [in some Arab countries] because we don't want them to be treated as foreigners, we are not foreigners. And if Arab regimes are religion-based, meaning that Islam is the state's religion ... then we live in constant danger,” Rai added.

The patriarch said that the international community and the church should help Christians in Syria as part of an endeavor to protect all minorities, whether Christians or Muslims.



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