Fr. Partrick Henry Reardon: Delegation to Syria

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Source: Antiochian Archdiocese | Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon | HT: AOI

During this past September 13-18, I was part of a delegation sent to Syria by Metropolitan PHILIP to investigate the internal political situation in that country, particularly with respect to its Christian minority. Our group consisted of six priests of the Antiochian Archdiocese: Fathers Dimitri Darwich (our guide and the only Arabic-speaker), Timothy Ferguson, Joseph Honeycutt, John Winfrey, David Bleam, and myself; two Protestant pastors: Bonn Clayton and Norman Wilson; and an expert in international law, James Perry, accompanied by his wife, Martha, who served as the delegation’s secretary. Attached to the delegation as a reporter for Ancient Faith Radio was John Maddex, its executive director.

The following narrative is my own assessment of that experience, along with some account of what I learned.

Let me begin by expressing a deep, sincere gratitude to Metropolitan Philip, both for the golden opportunity to visit Syria and for the confidence he placed in myself and the others he sent.

Most of this trip was devoted to matters not directly related to its purpose—namely, visits to shrines and other places of cultural interest. We began, in fact, by first paying our respects at the house of St. Ananias, the first bishop of Damascus, who baptized Saul of Tarsus. We also saw the window in the city wall, through which the Apostle was lowered in a basket. We walked many blocks along and around the “street called Straight,” passing through the Christian and Jewish sections of the city. (There are still 3,000 Jews in Syria, by the way, another of the minorities who find a secure home in that country.)

Also in Damascus (the world’s oldest, continually existing city) we spent some time at the National Archeological Museum, which displays many of the excavated articles (those not absconded in former times by the occupying French!) which reflect the very long and rich history of the region. Foremost among these, in my opinion was the entire 4th century synagogue from Dura Europos, on the Tigris River, uncovered in 1932. If we had seen nothing else, the sight of the frescoes on the walls of that synagogue would have made the entire trip more than worthwhile. I could have stayed in that museum for the whole time!

In addition to Damascus, our group was privileged to pray at the shrine and tomb of St. Thecla in the village of Maalula and to visit the monastery in Saydnaya, where we reverenced St. Luke’s icon of the Virgin Mary and her young Son.


When my parishioners in Chicago learned that Metropolitan Philip was sending me as part of the delegation to Syria, their reaction was uniformly negative. Simply put, the people were concerned for my physical safety. I tried to reassure them that the Metropolitan would never send his priests into danger. I also mentioned that our new bishops-elect would be going to Syria later in the year for their episcopal consecration. That could not happen, if their safety was in doubt.

My argument, however, was to no avail. Parishioners pleaded with me—some with tears—“Don’t go, Father Pat!”

I recognized that my parishioners were taking their cue from the view popularized by CNN, FOX News, and other media outlets that have been, for months, promoting a general and irresponsible hysteria about Syria. As for myself, I was not the slightest bit concerned about safety.

Candor compels the confession, nonetheless, that at one point in the journey, I did feel just a wee bit unsafe: Our little group was conducted into a large room full of scary-looking people, where a security force of more than twenty husky uniformed officers met us, all of them carrying side arms, and several holding assault rifles. As we walked through their midst, this security force gave our group a suspicious once-over. It is worth mentioning that this scene took place in the boarding area in an airport. The city was Chicago.

From the moment we actually boarded our plane, however, and during the entire remainder of the trip—in Jordan and Syria—I did not see a single side arm on any person at all, and I saw only two rifles: one held by a guard in front of the Defense Ministry in Damascus, and the other by the man who opened the front gate for us at the Presidential Palace.

During our whole time in Syria, I saw not a single armed policeman, nor—except for that guard at the Defense Ministry—a single soldier. I saw only one military vehicle, and that was near the Defense Ministry.

The only other weapons I saw in Syria were the 10-inch batons used by the local police to direct the flow of traffic in Damascus. Indeed, the only moments of apprehension we felt in Syria were occasioned by extraordinary displays of spontaneity and boldness on the part of its cab drivers.

In Syria our delegation—together and singly—was permitted to walk wherever we wished and to ask any questions of anybody we wanted. There was only one restriction: the tourist agency, assigned to guide us, mentioned two cities where, out of concern for our safety, it could not take responsibility for us. This concern, they said, was prompted by patterns of violence among some of the “armed gangs and criminal elements” active in those cities—not the Syrian government.

Prior to traveling to Syria, I had checked out the web page of our State Department, where I was warned that travel in Syria was currently very dangerous. Normally I would take such warnings seriously.

Over many years, however, I have done a lot of foreign travel, so I also trust my instincts with respect to safety. Long ago I walked the dark streets of Athens during a period when there were riots and insurrections throughout Greece. That same year—just after the civil war in Cyprus—I roamed all over that island, which was policed by U.N. peacekeepers.

In Kosovo not long ago, again at night, I strolled from the south (Albanian) side of Mitrovica, across the bridge, to the north (Serbian) side—and back again—without incident. I have walked around, after dark, in the neighborhoods of numerous foreign cities, such as London, Paris, Milan, Istanbul, and Tel-Aviv. In 1973 I was at the Athens airport, when terrorists stormed the El-Al customer desk with grenades and machine guns. I believe I can recognize danger when I see it.

I also know what it feels like to move around in a police state. Last year, for instance, I spent a week in Guatemala, where there were guns galore on nearly every street. At the time, the murder statistics in Guatemala City were staggering. One of our group on the Syrian trip, Father Timothy Ferguson, had spent a year in Guatemala, during which he followed the murder reports in the newspaper; he told me that there were 87 women murdered in his immediate neighborhood during that year, but not a single person was ever arrested for those murders. As for myself, within five minutes of entering Guatemala City, I was aware of danger.

So, let me sum up my impression of security in Syria. On a security scale of 1-to-10, I would give Syria 9.7. Using that same scale, I would give Detroit 4, Philadelphia 6, and Disney World 8.5.

Greeting the President

When Metropolitan Philip sent our little delegation to visit Syria, he asked us to make an honest and polite inquiry about the current political situation in that country, especially with regard to its Christian minority. Our interview with President Assad of Syria was probably the centerpiece of that inquiry.

We met with the President for about 90 minutes in the early evening. As the appointed spokesman for our delegation, I endeavored to set the tone in my introductory statement:

Fr. Reardon and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Mr. President, Bashar al-Assad, we are a delegation of American Christians, sent by Metropolitan Philip, our archbishop in the United States and Canada, as a renewed expression of his loyal friendship with you and his concern for the people of Syria.

Metropolitan Philip has charged us with the responsibility of learning—first-hand—your assessment of the political conditions in Syria.

Our mission here is likewise an expression of the concern of American Christians for the well-being of this beloved country of Syria, to which our debt is incalculable with respect to religion, history, and culture. To most of the members of this delegation, and certainly to myself, our visit to Damascus represents the dream of a lifetime.

To us, Syria is not just any country in the world. It is, rather, the hearth of our culture as Christians. To the extent that anyone in this room can be described as a cultured person, he is indebted to Syria.

Our journey to Damascus, therefore, expresses a return to the roots of our identity. Please, believe this declaration of our deep respect for Syria and our love for its people.

In the inquiries we humbly make of you today, we beg you to see both this respect and this love.

We bring you the warmest greeting of Metropolitan Philip, who holds your name and person in the highest honor, and we sincerely thank you for meeting with us.

I confess that our experience of the previous few days disposed us to think favorably of President Assad, right from the start. For example, the abbess at the Shrine of St. Thecla in Maalula, described his visit there this past Pascha. According to her, Dr. Assad drove his car, accompanied only by his wife—with no one else in attendance, neither security personnel nor press. They dined with the orphans who live near the shrine and are cared for by the nuns.

The couple spent the rest of the day with the orphans, who—the abbess said—look upon the President as a father. I think I speak for our whole delegation in remarking that the testimony of the abbess seemed very sincere and was most convincing. An identical impression was also conveyed to us, when we met with two Antiochian bishops at the Patriarchate the next day.

Such impressions were difficult to reconcile with the usual image of President Assad on American TV, where he is referred to as a murderer and “butcher.”

President Assad

After my greeting to President Assad, he invited us to ask any questions we wished, and he promised to be as open and frank as possible.

For our part, the delegation kept Metropolitan Philip’s directive in mind. Although he had not dictated or limited the scope of our inquiry, he had made clear what he did want: Information about the current internal order in Syria, particularly with respect to that country’s Christians.

Without exception, our group adhered to that focus. Consequently, we made no inquiries about Syrian foreign policy or its role in geopolitics. We never mentioned Syria’s relationship to Iran. We spoke not one word about Hezbollah, or Lebanon, or Israel. These subjects would have been distractions, so we stuck to the subject indicated by Metropolitan Philip.

As we entered the building, it was very instructive to observe the lack of security surrounding the executive leader of a nation. No one in our group was frisked or patted down, nor were we obliged to pass through a metal detector. We were simply escorted into the Presidential Palace and greeted at the door of the conference room by President Assad himself.

Dr. Assad, speaking excellent English, showed himself to be very cordial and personable. There was not the faintest suggestion of a maniacal dictator like Castro, Noriega, Hussein, or Ghadafi. This was a man of obvious culture, refinement, modesty, and gentility. Our meeting, which lasted nearly 90 minutes, was informal, candid, and unhurried.

The President said the economy—chiefly widespread poverty—was at the heart of the problem in Syria. He went on to declare, however, that the originally peaceful demonstrators were later infiltrated by right wing extremists, including the Muslim Brotherhood and a small very dangerous group from Iraq. He confessed that neither he nor his government was prepared for the violence that erupted so suddenly.

In response to a specific question on the subject, President Assad admitted that the military force over-reacted to this violence, on occasion, so that some demonstrators were killed and others tortured. These developments, he insisted, were contrary to his own policies. Other reported tortures, according to the President, were actually acts of revenge undertaken by emotional military personnel, who had lost colleagues during the demonstrations.

The President estimated that the demonstrators represented about 150 to 200 thousand people, out of a population of 23 million.

Syria’s greater problem, he believed, came from the portrayal of Syria conveyed in the Western media. The latter were allowed free range in the country in the first month of the uprisings, but when their depiction of the situation became unfair, distorted, and unbalanced, the government determined to send them packing.

The President believed the Syrian people were ready for reform, and he declared his intention to give it to them. He already started with educational and election reforms and made a start towards weeding out political corruption. Much more is planned, he said, but it takes time.

One of our questioners, persuaded that the Syrian government employed a large number of secret informants, make inquiry of President Assad on this point. He responded, “If I really had a large number of secret informants eavesdropping on the population, I don’t know how the strength of the uprising could take me by surprise. If we had a larger intelligence service, we would not need such a large army.”

In answer to a direct question from myself, President Assad insisted that no aircraft of any kind has been used against Syria’s demonstrators—a flat contradiction to TV reporting in the United States—and that no shots have been fired on the crowds from the tanks used as cover by Syrian soldiers under attack. (This was confirmed by Michel Kilo, a representative of Opposition, about whom I will write shortly.)

Our group was particularly interested in the President’s view of Syria’s Christian minority, which he believes is necessary in order to keep the country “secular.” (By this adjective, he explained, he meant a political setting in which no one religion can dictate to, or have advantage over, another.) Christianity has a moderating influence on Islam in Syria, he declared, and people are free to practice whatever religion they choose. “There can be no democracy in Syria,” said President Assad, “without Christians. A completely Muslim country would have not the counterbalance of influence necessary for democracy.”

Other Testimonies

In addition to our conversation with President Assad, our delegation also met with other important Syrians:

First among these were the two bishops who spent more than an hour with us at the cathedral office of the Antiochian Patriarchate. Both of them were very vocal about the current situation in Syria. Testifying that they had visited the sites where the reports of large-scale violence had taken place, they expressed a vehement protest against the inaccurate portrayal of their country in the Western news media. They claimed to have regular contact with their people in those communities, who insist that the local uprisings are blown completely out of proportion on American and European television.

These bishops also could not say enough positive things about the President, Bashar al Assad. We found this message to be a consistent and common theme from virtually everyone we talked with on the trip.

This was true even with respect to the “opposition figures” with whom we met. Chief and most outspoken among these was Michel Kilo, a representative of the Intellectual Party, who has consistently been a peaceful member of the opposition. A former Marxist, Kilo described himself as very pro-democracy but not necessarily anti-regime. In fact, he said, if President Assad is successful in introducing reforms, such as a fair and democratic election, he would vote for him!

Kilo acknowledged that there is much more than meets the eye with respect to the demonstrators, and he avowed that they do not all have the same agenda. He also believed the peaceful demonstrators’ agenda was being hi-jacked by extremists who, even among themselves, pursued other agendas, or none at all! Kilo called for an end to the violence on both sides and a faster pace toward needed reforms in the country, especially those dealing with corruption in the government.

On our last day in Damascus, we had an unexpected meeting with seven sheiks from northeast Syria (if memory serves), who learned of our presence in the country and journeyed to meet with us. These men, who represented 7 million Syrians, were dressed in the traditional garb common in Bedouin areas. They insisted on three points: (1) There is one God; (2) There is one Syria; and (3) There is one President Assad. These men, let me say, were in no mood to compromise!

The Grand Mufti of Syria and Fr. Reardon

Our last meeting, which lasted until about three o’clock in the morning of our final day in Syria, was with the leading Islamic cleric in the country known as the Grand Mufti, the spiritual father of Syria’s 70% Sunni majority. We found him to be very charismatic, warm, and friendly. Indeed, he was so irenic that I caught myself fancying I was talking with a Hindu! He deplored violence of any kind and preached to us about the dignity of humanity whether Muslim, Christian, Jew, or otherwise.

The Grand Mufti was also very pro-Assad and criticized what he called the huge fabrication the Western media was advancing by using unverified You-Tube films in its reports. He had been at those locations, he declared, exactly when some of the alleged uprisings and violence were occurring, and he saw nothing to support the exaggerations of the Western press. The Grand Mufti speculated that there was a 90% approval rating for President Assad in Syria, compared to the current 39% approval for President Obama in the United States.

Conclusions and Speculations

Let me summarize my impressions of the political situation in Syria:

First, I can only form opinions on what we saw and heard which did not include the alleged “hot spots.” I specifically requested to be taken to one of these places, explaining that, as a normal Chicagoan, I am completely devoid of fear. Concerned about safety, however, they politely declined my request.

Second, given the fact Damascus is the capital and the most populous region of Syria, one imagines we would see at least a hint of a revolution if there really were one. We did not.

Third, Christians in Syria are safe and happy. They worship in freedom without oppression. Both before and after this trip, several friends suggested that Christian support for the government in Syria is an example of the “Stockholm Syndrome.” That is to say, they speculated that the Christians in Syria are identifying with their oppressors to the point of supporting them. Let me affirm categorically that this is not the case in Syria. Christians in that country are not an oppressed minority, as they are, for example, in Egypt. Muslims in Syria have no political advantage over Christians.

Fourth, the TV reporting on Syria in this country is anything but “fair and balanced.” With a view to correcting this problem, our delegation suggested to President Assad that he begin by inviting one well-trusted television reporter from the United States to sit and talk with him, much as we did. Our recommendation was specific; we named such a reporter, who happens to be Orthodox. The President said he would give it serious consideration.

Fifth, it is my impression (and I speak for myself alone) that the stability of Middle Eastern governments, including the Syrian, depends a great deal on the support of the military. For this reason, it is not unknown for the leaders of such countries to have only a limited authority over their military establishments. If this is the case in Syria, it would explain, at least in part, why President Assad has not been able to stop all violence from the government’s side, even though such violence is diametrically at odds with his own policies.

Sixth, unless I am dreadfully mistaken, the current Syrian government is in no immediate danger from an internal revolution. There is far more rioting in the United States, and in almost every country of Western Europe, than there is in Syria. Even as I write this, there are more demonstrators camping out on Wall Street (where they voice utter vacuities, at all hours, to the press corps) than there are anywhere in Syria.

More Recent Developments

Since our return from Syria, two related developments have come to my attention:

First, shortly after we left Syria, a journalist from the BBC, Lyce Doucet, filed a report called “Inside Damascus, a city on edge” (9/26/11). This title (surely chosen by someone else) disguises Doucet’s actual report, which is compatible with everything I have written above. The distress she found in Damascus was chiefly related to the city’s loss of tourism, the result of the bad press the county has endured through most of this year. As I commend Doucet’s carefully crafted account, I also would like to believe it represents a much-needed return to factual reporting about Syria in the Western press.

Second, there continue to be targeted assassinations of Syria’s cultural and religious leaders, such as Hassan Eid, a surgeon at Homs’ general hospital; Aws Abdel Karim Khalil, a nuclear engineering specialist and charge d’affaires at al-Baath University; Mohammad Ali Aqil, deputy dean of its architecture faculty; Nael Dakhil, director of the military petrochemical school; and Saria Hassoun, the young son of the Grand Mufti himself.

Of these recent victims of violence, Khalil and Eid belonged to the Alawite sect (to which President Assad also belongs), Aqil was a Shiite Muslim, Dakhil a Christian, and Hassoun a Sunni.

What did these men have in common? Two things: First, they were all supporters of President Assad. Second, their murders have gone almost unmentioned in the Western press. For the Western media to report such murders, after all, would undermine the biased impression it wants to convey about the nature of the disturbances in Syria.

A Final Word

As the chosen spokesman for our delegation while we were in Syria, it fell to me to give two television interviews while we were there, the first one for SANA (Syrian Arab News Agency) and the second for a private commercial channel.

My first interviewer, who was an Antiochian Orthodox Christian, began with the hope that I would consider Syria my “second home.” “No,” I replied, “Syria is my first home.” I went on to explain my regard for Syria, because it is the geographical and historical link between the cultures of the Fertile Crescent and the Mediterranean Basin. As such Syria is the capstone, the link that holds Western Civilization together. It was Syria—specifically Ras Shamra—that taught us the alphabet. Consequently, if anyone wants to disagree about his level of debt to Syria, I will insist that he communicates the disagreement in either cuneiform or hieroglyphics; he certainly has no right to use the alphabet. Syria is, in short, at the absolute root of who we are.

Let me end by expressing, once more, my profound gratitude to Metropolitan Philip, to our Syrian hosts, to all those who made this journey possible, and to everyone who prayed for us.


  1. After Fr Pat’s report I don’t know what to make of this recent news report:
    Assad Threatens to Attack Tel Aviv if NATO Strikes

    Syrian President Bashar Assad threatened to torch the Middle East, especially Israel, if NATO attacks his country, reports.

    Assad reportedly made the threat during a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, when he said: “If a crazy measure is taken against Damascus, I will need not more than six hours to transfer hundreds of rockets and missiles to the Golan Heights to fire them at Tel Aviv.”

    … Assad vowed that Damascus would call on Hezbollah in Lebanon to launch a rocket and missile attack on Israel.

    “All these events will happen in three hours, but in the second three hours, Iran will attack US warships in the Persian Gulf as American and European interests will be targeted simultaneously,” ynet quotes Assad as saying.

    • Interesting to note that the report is a rehash of a story put out by FARS, the Iranian state news agency, which has an interest in jinning up controversy in the area, and especially loves to threaten Israel.

      I don’t think that we’ll ever be taking about St. Bashir, the so-called Arab Spring is nothing more than radical Islamists trying to overthrow more secular governments to make their own version of an Islamic paradise.

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      JDWatton remarks:

      “After Fr Pat’s report I don’t know what to make of this recent news report:

      ‘Assad Threatens to Attack Tel Aviv if NATO Strikes'”

      I had been following that report, even before its appearance on my computer.

      I’m afraid that report is perfectly compatible with everything I said in my article.

      It is also compatible, alas, with the material on the two pages of my notes (from the interview with President Assad), marked “off the record.”

      Follow Karen’s counsel: Pray for the people of Syria. The overthrow of its government is currently being plotted in Istanbul.

      But don’t quote me on it!

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Well, this is interesting Fr. Would the Phanar be complicit in this (the overthrow of Assad)? If so, doesn’t this show how terrible things are for ancient patriarchates, and how they are now at the end of their tether? To my mind, this is what happens when we settled into our comfortable Islamist-dominated ethnic ghettos.

        • Patrick Henry Reardon says

          George asks, “Would the Phanar be complicit in this (the overthrow of Assad)?”

          Oh goodness, I don’t think so! This conspiracy surely has nothing to do with Patriarch Bartholomew

          At present, the government of Turkey is playing Pharaoh Sheshonq to President Assad’s Solomon. That is to say, a whole bunch of Jeroboams are being prepared to invade.

          Turkey is doing this with the connivance of the rest of NATO, which is currently in the process of setting up its own regime in Libya.

          The Western press has been beating this drum since February, trying to convince the public that the conflicts in north Africa and the Middle East can be reduced simply to the opposition of freedom-loving Muslims against their tyrannical governments.

          This interpretation of events—“the Arab Spring”—is very far from the truth. This is not to say that there are no popular democratic impulses in northern Africa and the Middle East. However strong those impulses, however, they will not prevail. What will prevail—if the current governments of the region are overthrown—is a radical Islamism,

          This is already happening in Egypt. The American press seems determined to make it happen also in Syria.

          I am astounded that even Orthodox Christians, whose historical experience of the Turk should have instructed them better on the point, do not see what is happening over there. They seem to imagine that Metropolitan PHILIP does not understand the Middle East, but FOX News does!

          • Jane Rachel says

            Fr. Patrick wrote:

            What will prevail—if the current governments of the region are overthrown—is a radical Islamism,

            This is already happening in Egypt. The American press seems determined to make it happen also in Syria.

            My question is about your statement, “The American press seems determined to make it happen also in Syria.” Why?

            • Patrick Henry Reardon says

              Jane inquires:

              “My question is about your statement, ‘The American press seems determined to make it happen also in Syria.’ Why?”

              The statement expresses an impression (“seems determined”).

              “Why?” is an invitation to speculate.

              I don’t believe my speculations on this subject are mature enough for print.

              • Jane Rachel says

                I have written and deleted several comments because whenever my mind tries to work away at what is presented here, every hair on the back of my neck stands on end and my first instinct is to flee. That’s instinct for you, which is often more reliable than reason.

              • Christopher says

                I also question this seeming conspiracy of “the American press”. It’s simply naivety on the part of now liberal, secular western cultural in general (of which the press is simply a part). I also wonder about how long the dictator/military complex’s of countries like Syria can hold out. Islam is still conquering if you will, and the Christian/Jewish minorities reliance on the current circumstances makes for strange bedfellows…

  2. Michael Bauman says

    Assad is an enigma to us because he is an authoritarian leader. We in the west automatically think bad things about him because of our devotion to the ideology of democracy. His deal is support for Islamic terrorists abroad in return for peace at home.

    The bottom line is this: without Assad (or someone like him) the Chrisitan and Jewish lives in Syria will not be worth a plug nickel and the living tradition of Christianity in that part of the world will be gone.

  3. Another View says
  4. Many thanks, Fr. Pat, for this report. May the Lord have mercy on Syria, its people, its government, and especially all its Christians.

  5. Counterpoint says

    All one has to do it google “Syria and Human Rights” and they will discover hundreds of items documenting the horrible human rights record of the governments run by the current and past presidents. One article can never wipe away that record. No matter how peaceful it is at any one given time or how well dressed or urbane its leader’s are it remains a dictatorship where priviledges and what freedoms there are are at the whim of its leaders and the status of any person or institution can change with a single decision. No observations from a well groomed visit during a short period of time will change that simple fact.

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      Counterpoint suggests: “All one has to do it google “Syria and Human Rights”

      Alas, the thing is set up so that googling “Syria and Human Rights” is all that one CAN do. Not much else is available on the internet.

      I have seen those videos, of course, but they tell only part of the story. Nobody is filming the shooting of unarmed policemen in Syria, but roughly 700 of them have died.

      Anyway, I brought back videos that tell a very different story about Syria. Some of this material has been offered to Western news outlets, but they won’t run it. Their mind is made up.

      • Counterpoint says

        I see, so all those agencies like Amnesty International, the UN, Freedom House, and the thousands of documents, videos, reports, and anecdotes available indicating that the Syrian government routinely represses and kills its citizens are all part of a plot by the “Western Media” while your videos and article (produced by?) are finally giving us the truth we have been deprived of since 1963 when Syria was placed under emergency decree, an emergency that apparently hasn’t abated in nearly fifty years of one party, one family rule.

        • Counterpoint says

          I certainly believe that our Bishops-elect will be safe in Syria. I also affirm that Syria has an interesting and valuable history. The fault, I believe, is that we forget that the common template for Arab governments in the Middle East is a coalition or collection of various groups, clans, tribes, or religions, held together by a strong man or authoritarian figure with a veneer of a political process. Have there been and are there exceptions? Sure. Yet the exceptions don’t over ride the general pattern in the present.

          We have to deal with these governments as they are, not as we wish them to be or pretend they are. A beautiful place rich in history can still be a dictatorship and Syria is just that. Although tolerant of religion when its pays homage to the state Syria is what it is, a country a great distance away from anything we in the United States would identify as a free society. That is cold hard fact. So we deal with it because we must and because the alternative may be worse for people for whom we care. But the idea that somehow Syria is just misunderstood as a country, a victim not of its oppressive rulers but of bad press coverage simply doesn’t hold water and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise just to make people happy or try to wish the country is something that it, currently, is not.

          • Jane Rachel says

            Ahhhh…. yes. Thanks, Counterpoint.

          • Tamara Hanna Northway says


            No one is disagreeing that the secular dictatorships in the middle east have been a good thing for all Arabs of various factions. But I think we here in the west, only get a partial picture of what it means to be a Christian in a country like Syria.
            My little world view was broadened just a bit more this past summer when I learned how to make a Syrian cheese from a simple elderly Syrian lady who grew up in that country before the Assad’s came into power.
            She was the oldest in a family of eight children and her father is an Orthodox priest. They lived on a farm and all the boys of the family were allowed to go to school because the Muslims believed girls did not need to be educated. So she stayed home and learned to cook, bake and tend to the farm. During that time Hafez Assad came into power everything changed. He brought electricity and plumbing out to the countryside. He built roads all over Syria. But most importantly, he demanded that ALL children, boys and girls must go to school. So this lovely lady watched as her younger sisters were able to get what she always desired, and education. While I realize, Hafez was blood thirsty with one group of Syrians, he is revered by another group. And they want his son to continue to be their leader.
            Ask yourself where did all the Iraqi Christians flee to when the United States government decided to help democracy along in Iraq?

            • Patrick Henry Reardon says

              Tamara’s observation is a refreshing re-introduction of clarity and good sense into this discussion.

        • Amnesty International doesn’t depend on Met.Phillip for anything so it can be honest..It isn’t safe to disagree with Met.Phillip….

          • Patrick Henry Reardon says

            StephenD proclaims:

            “It isn’t safe to disagree with Met.Phillip….”

            Many decades ago, when I was a college debating instructor, I had to caution my undergraduate students that the judges would penalize them severely for ‘ad hominem’ arguments.

            • Heracleides says

              What, Fr. Reardon… no photographs of you kissing the Koran whilst on your propaganda tour? I should think the Despot (the one in Englewood, not Damascus) would have wanted you to cover all bases. He (or you) must be slipping.

              • Counterpoint says

                My intent in writing was not to provide a place where people could take a cheap shot at Fr. Reardon. To the extent that I may have done that or somehow given people permission to do this I apologize. I have no idea as to the motives behind what he has written and never will. I simply disagree with a certain set of facts, namely that Syria’s horrid reputation is a product of the media and not the consequences of its governments actions.

                • Heracleides says

                  I didn’t need permission. I’ve long been skeptical of Fr. Reardon’s words or lack thereof when it comes to the comedy that is Englewood. That he chooses to act on behalf of a pair of despots is his affair; that I choose to dismiss his actions is mine.

                  • counbterpoint says

                    If you believe there is evil then overcome it with good. How do you work for positive change by calling someone a “Koran kisser?”

                  • Tamara Hanna Northway says

                    It is easy to be as nasty as you want behind a pseudonym.
                    Why are you afraid to come out in the open?

                    Fr. Pat Reardon is far from a Koran Kisser as you call him.

                    He explained in clear terms the differences between Islam and Orthodox Christianity
                    to a large group of Orthodox Christians when some other fellow in the Antiochian Archdiocese wrote a paper claiming there was very little difference between the two faiths. I know because I was there.

                    Get all your facts straight before start hurling insults.

                    • Heracleides says

                      Tamara dear, I was speaking of a missed Koran kissing photo-op in terms of Fr. Reardon’s propaganda tour with an oblique reference to another cleric who let himself be used for propaganda purposes by Muslims when he smacked the Koran with puckered lips. No doubt that flew right past you. I suppose photographs of Priest Reardon hobnobbing with the Grand Mufti will have to suffice in this instance – perhaps next time Fr. can fit the Koran kissing photo-op into his busy schedule as he is selectively shepherded through the streets of Damascus by his minders.

                      In any event Tamara, Fr. Reardon knows who I am as we have communicated privately in the past. So deal with my moniker – or not – as I simply don’t care if my use of it entails loss of sleep on your part.

                • Jane Rachel says

                  We often get called on the carpet for telling the truth.

                • Patrick Henry Reardon says

                  Counterpoint remarks:

                  “My intent in writing was not to provide a place where people could take a cheap shot at Fr. Reardon. To the extent that I may have done that or somehow given people permission to do this I apologize.”

                  Thank you, friend.

                  • M. Stankovich says

                    Fr. Patrick,

                    With all due respect – and I believe you are due – In my estimation, you have absolutely nothing to defend here. While I can fully appreciate the urge to respond to such provocation, when discussion morphs to personal insult, I like the advice of Bernard Shaw: “Take off your hat and shut up. Let the art speak for itself.” Why bring integrity to the dungheap?

                    Εὐλόγειte ὁ Κύριος!

                    • Jane Rachel says

                      my favorite place to resort to when discussion morphs to personal insult is Oscar Wilde:

                      Here’s one I found just this very second:

                      “What is interesting about people in good Society is the mask that each one of them wears, not the reality that lies behind the mask.”

  6. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    What struck me as very compelling and trying everything together that Fr. Pat said was that in all Middle Eastern Governments its the Millitary that mostly rules with the Civilian Government having limited control. This is very accurate and does explain the descrepancy between what the government wants to do and what the Military wants to do and does do. We see this in Turkey, Egypt, Lebannon, etc.

    In fact, the So-Called Arab Spring can be legitimately called the “Islamic Spring.” Secural governments in the Middle East are repressive, but we never asked what they were repressing? The Islamic Extremists. We forget that its NOT Sunni Islam that necessarily the problem. The Problem with Islam in the modern world started with the Fall of the Shah of Iran and the Rising of the Islamic State in Iran with the Ayatolla Khommeni.

    With the Rise of Iran’s form of Islam, i.e. Shia Islam, this put it at odds with the rest of the Muslim world, especially Sunni Islam, which is the more dominate form of Islam. Iran than started its expansion of influance in the Middle East that led to a direct confrontation with the Sunnis. Through the rise of Iran Hezbolla, Hamas, and client states like Syria were created. However, in all those instances Iran was fought back.

    Hezbolla is only in the Southern Part of Lebannon, Hamas is only in Gaza, Syria is going through an internal struggle over control of its country, remeniscent of what Lebannon went through years ago. All the while Iran using the plight of the Palestinians as pure subterfuge for their growth and dominance in the region.

    Osama Bin Laden was a direct threat to Iran, as well as being a direct threat to the Power of other Sunni Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia. Thus Iran never supported him and Saudi Arabia exiled him and ostracized him. Yet, his raling cry was to fight againt the Heretical Shia, the Corrupt Sunni Governments that are alied with the Great Satan America, and to set up a Sunni Caliphate to rule the Middle East and the world. THAT DIDN’T FLY WITH IRAN!

    In the end Middle Easterners, like all other Human Beings, are peaceful and caring people as long as certain agent provocatures just leave them be. Look at Eastern Europe in the 90’s with the Bosnian War, the Kossovo War, and all the killings and atrocites committed. Were the people bad? No. Were the people riled up and scared that someone or something would now be coming for them? yes, and they reacted as any human being would. This is the tragedy of our fallen human nature.

    Still to this day we American are systematically controlled by our Media that shapes our perceptions. Now are all thing good and great in the Middle East? NO! but are things as black and white as we are led to believe? NO, absolutely not. We need to think for ourselves and have a much more critical mind than we currently have.

    Finally, Fr. Pat has shown us that we do have sincere and authentic connections overseas and that our connections as Orthodox Christians do not end at the US border. Our neighbor that we are to love as ourselves is not just in this country, but in the whole world.

    Peter A. Papoutsis

  7. While I greatly respect Fr. Patrick for having made this trip, I have to wonder how much he got out and talked to ordinary Syrians. Most of the people he spoke with seemed to be religious or other leaders. He admitted he does not speak Arabic. He traveled as part of an official delegation to government-controlled areas. How representative could this trip possibly be of the real situation in Syria? I am proficient in Arabic, have been to Syria twice (in 2007 and 2010), and have never once met a Syrian who would say anything remotely critical of the regime. But this summer in Lebanon, I met Syrians who spoke out quite freely against their government’s murder of their own citizens. Another friend – who used to live in the Damascus suburbs and speaks fluent Arabic – was back there in the spring of this year, and said friends she thought were apolitical were suddenly speaking openly against the regime and that everyone was extremely nervous regardless of political opinion. I don’t doubt that Fr. Patrick saw what he saw and is reporting accurately on that – but I do doubt that what he saw is representative of what is happening in Syria as a whole. God have mercy on Syria and her people!

  8. Jim of Olym says

    I enjoyed the photo of Fr. Patrick and the Grand Mufti. Please note how the portrait of Pres. Assad is more prominent than the volume of the Holy Quaran! Says something, I think (or maybe imagine).

  9. Jim of Olym says

    Thanks, Peter! I think you have a good idea of what is going on there. I don’t know much about the middle East, except I know people from Beit Jalla, in Israel, and who visit there frequently. As naturalized US Citizens they have US passports, but they magically turn into ‘Palestinians’ as soon as they get off the plane in Israel! Oh, wonder!
    I don’t suppose that transmogrification happens in any other country.

  10. Time to re-read Jeanne Kirkpatrick’s classic essay “Dictatorships and Double Standards.” The players have changed, but the theory still holds true: authoritarians are preferred over totalitarians. Assad can be brutal, but don’t threaten the government and he leaves you alone. Threaten him, and he strikes back or is defeated. Once defeated however, totalitarian leaders arise — Marxist ideologues like Idi Amin in Kirpatrick’s day or in this case, radical Jihadists whose first order of business will be to eliminate the Christians.

    Those critical of Fr. Reardon’s trip make it with no awareness of history or probable outcomes. What will it take? Increasing persecution of the Copts in Egypt, a massacre of Christians in Syria if Assad falls?

    I love my country but in threatening to overthrow Assad like Mubarak or Khaddafi were overthrown, America is not on the side of the angels.

    • I love my country but in threatening to overthrow Assad like Mubarak or Khaddafi were overthrown, America is not on the side of the angels

      True. The naïveté and perfidy of our present administration has unleashed a genie that is not going back into the bottle until rivers of blood have been shed. It is a tragedy that dictatorships are often the only mechanisms capable of maintaining relative calm among factions motivated by blood-hatred. It seems they’re always replaced by something far, far worse. In this case, I resent having American tax dollars sent to support what is, ostensibly, a movement toward “democracy” but which is, in fact, a return to medieval barbarity.

    • Jim of Olym says

      Fr. Hans, I’ve often disagreed with you political philosophy, but I sure hope you are wrong here.

  11. “Those critical of Fr. Reardon’s trip make it with no awareness of history or probable outcomes. What will it take? Increasing persecution of the Copts in Egypt, a massacre of Christians in Syria if Assad falls?”

    Sorry Fr Hans, I do study Middle Eastern history (and am a graduate student in that field) and am not at all naive to possible outcomes. But does anyone have any credible evidence of the Syrian opposition’s intent to massacre Christians? Has there been any anti-Christian sloganeering? Anything verified by independent sources? As for Egypt, persecution of Copts came back with a vengeance under Sadat, continued under Mubarak, and continues now. In fact persecution of Copts largely coincides with periods of weakness of the central state, and was a sign a few years back that Mubarak was losing legitimacy.

    “I love my country but in threatening to overthrow Assad like Mubarak or Khaddafi were overthrown, America is not on the side of the angels.”

    So you are practically speaking on Assad’s side. Is that the side of the angels? I think it very odd for Christians, who have resisted tyranny and injustice in so many different times and places from the Roman Empire until now, to support such an obviously tyrannical and unjust regime now. I don’t buy this distinction of authoritarian/totalitarian in this case – there was an obvious cult of personality that Bashar and his father inculcated from the top down, and economic well-being was largely a function of Baath and family connections. For Christians to support the Assad regime would be a catastrophic betrayal of their own history (speaking of history).

    • I think the notion of an “Arab Spring” is used to paper over the very real possibility that the overthrow of authoritarian regimes in the region will foster new regimes totalitarian in nature (and Islamic Jihadism is very close to totalitarianism in terms of its reach into private life). I think it is a mistake to interpret this concern as moral approval of authoritarian dictators. Nevertheless, authoritarian dictators often keep a peace where Christianity and other religions are protected.

      Your term “sides” makes sense only if you presume that an alternative to Assad would be better. That’s a huge presumption and not one that I am willing to make, particularly when I look at the the record of those who support his overthrow, liberals and neo-cons primarily (no real difference in the foreign policy) in such places as Serbia and wherever else NATO has been called in to effect Western policy.

      If there were internal movements, something like we saw in Iran last year (and of which the liberals in particular were silent), I’d have a bit more confidence in your critique. But I don’t see it. Most of what I see is talk of overthrow generated from Western powers and, as Fr. Reardon said, Turkey.

      Again, I am not arguing that tyranny by Assad doesn’t deserve critique or that it should not be resisted. But the Syrian people are the best judge of that. I will listen to them first. My fear is that an overthrow by Western powers will probably make matters worse, much worse.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        I think we’re all agreed that the entire “Arab Spring” is pretty much a sham. I wrote back in April (I believe) about Tahrir Square that it was not anything like Tiananmen, that is to say democratically liberal. Having said that, I hate to bring this back to the Syosset nonsense, but isn’t it cute that Herr Stokoe in his directive to his minions in the original e-mail praised the situation that the OCA was undergoing as “like Tahrir Square”? He was implying of course that the anti-+Jonah contingent was riding the crest of a popular uprising against the Metropolitan.

        My gut told me then that these guys were delusional.

        • “I think we’re all agreed that the entire “Arab Spring” is pretty much a sham. I wrote back in April (I believe) about Tahrir Square that it was not anything like Tiananmen, that is to say democratically liberal.”

          George, I don’t know who is included in the “all” you presume to speak for, but it doesn’t include me. The original protesters in Tahrir were absolutely liberal and democratic, and they are still protesting. Islamist groups piggy-backed on the original protests, and the military government has been trying to balance between the two groups (although that’s a vast overgeneralization – there are many types of Islamists, who don’t like each other at all, and many types of democratic liberals, some on the right, the majority of that group in Egypt on the left). Yesterday the military – which receives billions of dollars in US aid – played the sectarian card against the Copts with horrible effects. Many Muslim Facebook friends of mine posted (in Arabic and English) “We are all Copts today” in solidarity against the military regime.

          The game is not over yet, and the lines we try to draw as Americans, working from an American frame of reference, are never really accurate – the Nobel Peace Prize winner from Yemen is a non-violent liberal democrat member of the Islamist Islah Party.

          Fr Hans – “Your term “sides” makes sense only if you presume that an alternative to Assad would be better.”

          Well, there are two alternatives right now – keeping Assad and overthrowing him. I don’t see a viable third way at present, although one may emerge. I do agree with you, however, that Western intervention would be a disaster, and for that matter most of the Syrian opposition does not seem to support such intervention (unlike in Libya).

          I have no idea why you think that the popular uprising in Syria is not driven by local forces. You seem to have swallowed the pro-regime propaganda in this instance. I don’t doubt that foreign powers (specifically Saudi Arabia and Qatar) have tried to support certain elements of the opposition, but they are not the reason why the uprising began. The uprising started in Deraa when a bunch of schoolkids were arrested, and it spread from there.

    • Jane Rachel says

      Matt, when you have time, I would greatly appreciate your continued input here. I very much enjoyed reading your comments. Thanks.

      • I agree Matt….Please shed some more light on this issue..It really doesn’t make sense that met.Phillip wouldnt send people who speak Arabic to Syria..he has enough priests who do in his jurisdiction but having said that Matt please continue to post

        • Patrick Henry Reardon says

          StephenD speculates:

          “It really doesn’t make sense that met.Phillip wouldnt send people who speak Arabic to Syria”

          It makes perfect sense. Our priests from the Middle East know exactly what is going on over there. It was the rest of us who needed instruction.

          The Metropolitan explained this adequately, I believe, in his introductory letter.

  12. Nick Katich says

    Matt: I left this website many months ago because of my disagreements with George’s bloviating. However, I am compelled to return temporarily for this single post after your comment was brought to my attention. It seems easy for you to martyr Christians in Syria which would be the result of the overthrow of Assad and his replacement by the sharia brotherhood. Would you martyr yourself, if you were a Syrian Christian, in the same way. I may be wrong, but I think not. My advice, Brother in Christ, is “wish upon others what you would be willing to endure yourself”.


    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

      It is when we stop talking to each other that evil enters our hearts. So what if what George says is bothering you. Keep talking brother because then we may start to understand and love each other. Stick around


      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Of course, the best answer is for a return to a non-interventionist foreign policy. Now that the USSR is defeated, there is no reason for NATO. Instead, I propose a modern Holy League, which will take the battle to the Islamist enemy if and only when the nations that make up this alliance are attacked (like 9/11). In the meantime, immigration from Islamic nations should be put on indefinate hold as these clearly spawn Fifth Columnists within our borders.

        As for Nick’s assertion about the dire straights that the indigenous Christians find themselves in, isn’t this the end-result of our peoples’ willingness to live in their Islamist ghettos? Wherever we look, when the Church stopped evangelizing it stopped being the Church. The Light of Christ was extinguished. None of the glories of the non-Christian world compare to Christendom. Baghdad was never as glorious as Constantinople; Kandahar, Tehran, Cairo all pale in comparison to the great Christian cities of the West. Our native Christian collusion with Islam (understandable given the circumstances) has resulted in our becoming a rabbinic form of Christianity: tribal, xenophobic, and marginal.

        And now look: the Patriarchate of Constantinople is an unwitting participant in the machinations of the Turkish gov’t. To what end? Speculation: The subjugation of the Patriarchate of Antioch to it, along the lines of what has happened to Jerusalem and Alexandria?

        Perhaps this explains the laudatory elevation of Lambrianides (who is half-Greek, half-Syrian) to the vibrant See of Bursa?

        • Peter A. Papoutsis says

          Interesting perspective(s). I have to think upon this. George, do you have any more fact to back up much of what you say, I would be most interested to read them. This is a possiblity that I never seriously considered. Thanks.


          • Geo Michalopulos says

            Peter, which one in particular, about Emir Feisal wanting Jews to colonize Palestine or the willingness of the Phanar to become an organ of Turkish foreign policy? As for the former, I’ll look up the documents (it’s been years since I read Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom). As for the second assertion, that’s merely an extrapolation based on history: the Patriarchates of Bulgaria and Serbia were demolisthed in 1767 and placed under the Patriarchate of C’pole. Old habits die hard. Perhaps I was extrapolating too much from Fr Pat’s essay but one could make the reasonable assertion based on what we read.

        • Patrick Henry Reardon says

          George affirms, “Now that the USSR is defeated, there is no reason for NATO.”

          I have been saying this since the day the USSR fell. And I said it again recently on Syrian TV.

          Not only has NATO continued, it has greatly expanded.

          Unlike most of you, I can actually recall when NATO was set up (and, in quick response, the Warsaw Pact).

          NATO was founded as an organization of mutual defense. How does “mutual defense” explain NATO’s adventures in Kosovo and Libya?

          • Peter A. Papoutsis says

            I do not know father. I have been trying to figure that out myself. Well, I’m off. The weather in Chicago right now is very nice for Fall and I have date with my wife and my two little munchkins.

            You know I have a question: My kids are past 2 so when will the terrible twos stop? I mean they do stop right? Anyway, bye for now, and if you have good weather like we do in Chicago go out and enjoy it.


            • Peter, as an experienced mom, I can tell you the threes are definitely more challenging than the twos. Hang in there–it does get better. Have a lovely weekend! 🙂

          • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

            George is mostly correct, I agree; however it’s not so much that the USSR was defeated as that it was wiped off the map, without being bombed or its people being beat up. They survived being wiped off the map(s). Why couldn’t the citizens of Israel survive israel being wiped off the map?

          • “Now that the USSR is defeated, there is no reason for NATO.”

            We’re really sure that the USSR has been defeated, eh?

            Me? I’m not so sure. I suspect it was only a temporary setback.

            • George Michalopulos says

              Q, I respectfully differ. Even though Russia as a great nation is quasi-imperialist/expansionist, it is nowhere near the great empire that the Soviet Union was. The USSR had a population of 300+ million when the US population was 200 million. Presently Russia has a population of 140 million. I realize of course that they have a nuclear arsenal (as do we) but Russia is not beholden to the totalitarian cult of Communism which mandated world conquest and had some appeal to various peoples thoughout the world. Even if we accepted the worst about Putin, he never would say to the US a la Krushchev that “we will bury you.”

              These are important distinctions and we must not fall prey to the siren song of the neocons who are always looking for foreign dragons to slay.

        • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

          I really disagree that the Light of Christ was EVER extinguished in Egypt. Last I heard there were eleven million Coptic (Egyptian, non-Arab) Christians in Egypt, although the Church likes to minimize the number to avoid igniting the more flammable sorts. And Egypt has been under every imaginable variation of Islam at one time or another. The holy Icons in St.; Catherine’s monastery have been preserved until today, even though most Muslims disparage and condemn icons and even though the Byzantines tried to wipe icons off the face of the earth for some time. St. John of Damascus’s light of Christ has never stopped shining, even though he himself was Vizier to the Caliph of Damascus and never left Islamic domination. In general, the non-Orthodox Christians have been better off under Islam than they ever were under Constantinople.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Your Grace, I’m glad that as an Orthodox bishop you consider the Copts to be Christians. I have been troubled by some hyper-Orthodox who do not do so.

            If I may add a brief digression here regarding the Copts and the late +Dmitri of Dallas. When +Dmitri met with the Greek Patriarch of Alexandria several years ago, he took him to task for not coming to the aid of the Copts. The Patriarch could give no answer but mumbled something about them not being Greek or Christian.

          • In general, the non-Orthodox Christians have been better off under Islam than they ever were under Constantinople.

            That is sad but probably true. Although a lot of the early persecutions went both ways (like St. Flavian), there is much to be repented of in our collective treatment of the non-Chalcedonians.

            What I won’t stand for, though, are attempts to represent non-Chalcedonians as if they were “Orthodox”, or that there is anything sinful in our “failure” to “recognize” them as such. Despite using a similar name, the “Oriental Orthodox Communion” is a creation of the WCC. Even that name was invented for the specific purpose of deliberately confusing the very real differences between the Orthodox and the non-Chalcedonian churches. I think it is appalling that non-Chalcedonians are allowed by some clergy to commune in Orthodox churches without being formally received into the Orthodox Church.

            Making up for the real sinful mistakes should include both standing up for the Copts in their hour of need, as well as helping correct their theological errors that have separated them from the Church for so long.

        • Jim of Olym says

          George, I suppose others have suggested this, bu first and foremost, the secularist minions of Europe have to be reconverted to a Christian and possibly Catholic view of their lives, and start practiing that.

    • Nick, thank you for your question and sorry for my belated response. I do not mean to imply that the overthrow of Assad would be easy for Christians (or for that matter that it would be hard for Christians). Nor do I call upon anyone to go voluntarily to slaughter and martyrdom. I just find it odd that Christians support (either openly, or their support is a de facto result of their position) such a brutal regime.

  13. cynthia curran says

    Its true that the US has allies that our not the based on human rights and you should support them since the alternative is not the best

    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

      Self-preservation comes before Truth, right? Is that what you’re saying?

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        Bishop Tikhon inquires:

        “Self-preservation comes before Truth, right? Is that what you’re saying?”

        Respectfully, you know very well this is not what she is saying. You have simply ventured a cheap shot.

        • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

          Cheap shot? More like a free bull’s-eye.

        • Jane Rachel says

          Fr. Patrick, you corrected another commentator, StephenD, for using “ad hominem” when that writer is telling the truth as he sees it. “No one can disagree with Metropolitan Philip…” and I take his ellipses to mean, “or else.” And you proceed to chastise him, ever so gently, without addressing his statement.

          I asked “why?” in another comment, and what I meant was, “WHAT????”

          You say you respect Bishop Tikhon and then call him “cheap”? That was an uncalled-for insult. I didn’t see anything “cheap” in Bishop Tikhon’s remark. The statement by cynthia curran was that the U.S. has allies that are not based on human rights and we should support them since the alternative is not the best. The reply was, “Self-preservation comes before Truth, right? Is that what you’re saying?” It’s a good question. Yet the question remains unanswered while the questioner was called “cheap.”

          Discredit the questioners and we can get on with ignoring the questions.

          • Jane Rachel says

            I didn’t see your comment until now, Fr. Patrick. Will read.

          • Patrick Henry Reardon says

            Jane indicts me:

            “You say you respect Bishop Tikhon and then call him “cheap?”

            I believe that adjective—by the usual rules of grammar and syntax—was directed at what the bishop said, not at the bishop.

            • Jane Rachel says

              Gotcha! ;P

            • Jane Rachel says

              Father Patrick indicts:
              “Jane indicts”

              I did not, and that word stung.

              We are what we speak. Cheap shots are made by people who are, at that moment, acting cheaply. If you accuse someone, or indict them, for taking a cheap shot, then at that moment, you are accusing him or her of being “cheap” or “low” in character. You may or not be wrong about that at any given moment. But if you imply that he or she is cheap while at the same time saying that you respect him or her, you are saying two opposite things about one person at the same time, and this just does not reflect well on you. “I do respect you but I think you are cheap, low, coarse, downright mean.” It’s common ’round here and elsewhere, but in its own way, it’s sort of cheap to go that route, I think.

              I got my grammar down good, by the way. “The minute I seed her I knewed that I knowed her, so I retched out my hand and wove.”

              Oh, and can you punctuate this?
              John while James had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher.

              • Jane Rachel says

                Give up? Nobody cares? I love this kind of stuff. Ready?

                John, while James had had, “had,” had had “had had.” “Had had” had had a better effect on the teacher.

                I think that is priceless. An odd thing to post on a discussion blog like this, but I thought Father Patrick might get a kick out of it, so I posted it. “Obloquy,” eh? Heh.

          • M. Stankovich says

            St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians, 6:9-10:

            Now the more any one sees the bishop keeping silence, the more ought he to revere him. For we ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household.

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      Cynthia Curran observed:

      “It’s true that the US has allies that are not the based on human rights and you should support them since the alternative is not the best”

      Bishop Tikhon—tutored by who knows what impulse—chose to translate Cynthia’s comment as: “Self-preservation comes before Truth.”

      There are other possible meanings to Cynthia’s observation, however, most of which do not portray her as a heretic or an idiot.

      For my part, I don’t see the slightest evidence that Cynthia is either a heretic or an idiot, nor should a gentleman be disposed to think so.

      Indeed, her cited observation suggests that Cynthia reasons with the clarity of Aristotle, who made the same distinction between the demands of Truth and possibilities of politics.

      • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

        Patrick, etc.
        Mme. Curran made a remark relative to political practicality.
        I clarified the remark relative to morality.
        Patrick, etc., you seem to feel that by my bringing morality into the picture, I have somehow thereby effectively labelled the good woman a heretic and/or idiot.
        I’ll take refuge from his bizarre allegation in popular Latin: “Non sequitur,” my good fellow, “non sequitur!”

        This reminds me of the sort of remark made by non-Orthodox ignoramusses over the years (to which category Patrick does not belong), when a doctrinal difference between their beliefs and the beliefs of Orthodox is pointed up. They remark, “Oh, so now I suppose that means I’m going to go to Hell and you’re going to heaven!” Again, “non sequitur.’

        • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

          Mme. Curran would have been better advised to just say that while, in general, we should not embrace as ally any government with a bad record on human rights; nevertheless, in the case of President Assad of Syria, we could recognize that since his government’s attitude towards human rights is far superior to that of, for example, the government of Saudi Arabia we can maintain a friendly relationship with him and encourage him to lose no opportunities to help the military powers in his land stop their nonsense.
          While the Rev. Reardon may feel safer in Syria while on a government-approved visit, than on a random visit to Detroit, Michigan, he should also feel safer in Syria while on a government-approved visit, than on a random visit to Englewood, New Jersey. And in both Detroit and Englewood, he could utter in public and private whatever he might feel moved to utter, about Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas with complete impunity.
          Of course, in both Iran and Saudi Arabia, Orthodox clergymen couldn’t display pectoral crosses, but would probably slip them into vest pockets or otherwise hide them from public view,, as during an ancient Roman persecution.
          Weren’t some of the original founders of the “Ba-ath” (Resurrection) party Christians?
          Interesting! I wonder; if members of Assad’s government visited the Antiochian Archdiocese in America, I’ll be they’d get a WONDERFUL view of the peace, unanimity, and brotherly love, free of suspicion amongst the members of that Archdiocese.
          I’d have tried to venerate the head of St. John the Baptist, revered in the Umayyad mosque there, in Damascus.

          • Patrick Henry Reardon says

            Bishop Tikhon remarks,

            “I’d have tried to venerate the head of St. John the Baptist, revered in the Umayyad mosque there, in Damascus.”

            To be sure!

            Actually, I was the only person in the delegation who failed to make that visit. I sincerely regret that failure.

            I would explain in detail why it happened, but the circumstances are a bit embarrassing. I confess that they had to do with my advancing years and a consequent problem about walking around without falling down.

            It happens at least once a year, but I am so sorry it happened in Syria.

        • Patrick Henry Reardon says

          Bishop Tikhon explains:

          “I clarified the remark relative to morality.”

          It is a comfort—for which the bishop deserves our gratitude—to learn that he did not intend to impugn the character of Cynthia Curran.

          • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

            AWfully gracious apology!

            • I just figured that Jesus said to let the wheat and the tares grow up together and he would take care of things at the harvest. Some days we are wheat, some days we are tares. Some days we have to love our enemies.

  14. Jane Rachel says
    • Thanks Jane….so much for the western media being “anti-Assad.”,,sad very sad..AL-Jeerzia is very respected…Wasn’t Chamberlain duped by Hitler…peace in our time and all that?

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        StepheD believes,

        “AL-Jeerzia [sic] is very respected”

        At least by those who respect it.

        My subscription to Aljazeera goes back several years.

        Its position on almost any question is entirely predictable. It is a Gulf States version of CNN. It is far more predictable than . . . say, The Jerusalem Post.

        Indeed, while I was in Syria, I took turns watching Aljazeera, CNN, and BBC each morning. There really wasn’t much difference among them.

        It was instructive, nonetheless, that one was able to watch all those channels in Damascus.

        • Jim of Olym says

          Stramgely, not here in the USA. Tells you something, eh?

        • Instructive indeed, as Jim of Olym points out. I would say that al-Jazeera was a much more credible source of news before the Arab Spring; since the Libya intervention and the Bahraini uprising it has become a vocal instrument of Qatari foreign policy. No wonder the old director suddenly “resigned” a few weeks ago.

          As long as we’re on sources of information – the absolute best English-language source of info regarding Syria is Professor Joshua Landis’ blog. He’s at U of Oklahoma and knows more about Syria than just about anyone in the USA, and maintains a quite neutral posture in light of current events. His blog, SyriaComment, is here: – the comments section is also quite lively and representative of the range of Syrian opinion.

  15. Jane Rachel says

    There is something that is slipping between the cracks. The Prophet Daniel refused to worship the gods of Nebuchadnezzar and was thrown into the lion’s den. He didn’t know God would shut their mouths and save him. He could have catered to the Persian king but he refused regardless of the consequences. He reasoned with the reasoning of Christ. Witnessing to the Truth was more important than his own self-preservation. Now our spiritual leaders are jumping into the lion’s den, patting them on the heads and saying, “Nice kitties!”

    • Jane Rachel:

      I think it is Winston Churchill–no, in fact, I am quite certain that it is Winston Churchill–who, in his book The Gathering Storm, lists 17 policy mistakes on the part of British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, that hastened and assured the outbreak of WWII, with all its misery and horror, and yet forgives Chamberlain because he believes him to have been acting solely from the most honorable of impulses–however naive and misguided they may, in reality, have been.

      Meanwhile, I’m collecting a list of the names of Orthodox Christians who wish to martyr themselves to the Islamic radicals. May I put you down?

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        qwfwq inquires:

        “I’m collecting a list of the names of Orthodox Christians who wish to martyr themselves to the Islamic radicals. May I put you down?”

        Normally, I think sarcasm does not help in discussions of this sort. In the present case, perhaps, an exception should be made!

      • Jane Rachel says

        I am so wanting to get away from this. Sigh.

        The concern I’m expressing is not about foreign policy. Foreign policy in the Middle East is something I think about, but I would not presume to talk about it here. Enough people are saying plenty about that.

        Fact: American Orthodox leaders have taken a few days off and traveled to Damascus, Syria, where they talked with President Assad (for ninety minutes), the Orthodox bishops, the Grand Mufti, and the abbess of a local Orthodox monastery, where they heard a nice story about President Assad.

        Then, they came back and told us not to believe the world news reports, what negative things the American and European leaders of this world are saying on the news about President Assad, or anything else negative we hear or read from outside sources.I don’t have to repeat what Father Patrick wrote in his article and comments. Read it yourself. He knows what is “really” going on in Syria, he knows the world press is presenting a false impression, he knows better than all the world leaders, he knows what is motivating the press, and he knows what’s going to happen, but don’t quote him!

        • Patrick Henry Reardon says

          Well, Jane Rachel, don’t take my word for it.

          It is possible, however, that you may take more seriously the comments of an Orthodox deacon, who wrote to me this morning. It is very typical of comments I have received—without dissenting voice—from many Middle Eastern Christians in this country. The rest of this message is a quotation from him. I offer it here without further comment:

          “I have read with great anticipation your article on your mission to Syria and I congratulate you. Also, it was very well received by our parishioners and St. Nicholas Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut, 90% of whom are at least 2ND generation Americans. They were relieved to read your article since many of them have relatives in Syria who have been saying things were not what the press has been reporting (but they were a little skeptical believing that the phones of their relatives might be bugged). In fact one of my parishioners sent me an e-mail stating as follows:
          “‘My godfather, Archmandrite Elias Abdouka, is based at the Archdiocese in Homs, the site of much of the protest movement. I call him and many other relatives regularly to get updates on the situation. Everything they say is consistent with what the article reports. I was very skeptical, thinking they were afraid to talk openly for fear of being overheard and subsequent consequences. However, we have had several relatives and friends visiting the US in the last few weeks. In talking with them face to face, they also report news that is consistent with the article. They say most of the fire is being fueled by the Muslim Brotherhood and extremists outside of Syria. These outside elements have been paying modest sums of money to disaffected young men, who suffer from poverty, and getting them to protest.’
          “Another parishioner, Sayidna Philip’s niece who returned a couple of weeks ago from a three-month stay in Lebanon, told me that she had extensive conversation with Metropolitan Georges Khodr on the subjects and things were consistent with what you have written. Also, her brother, whom she was staying with, was alarmed when he heard some reports on Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya and call friends living in the purportedly besieged towns. They relayed all was calm and even sent him pictures from their phones to demonstrate it.”

  16. Patrick Henry Reardon says

    At last FOX News today has run a detailed piece about the plight of Christians in Egypt under the new provisional government.

    Unto my considerable satisfaction this report included observations by Walid Phares, whose book THE COMING REVOLUTION, last year, predicted the appearance of what the Western press soon called “the Arab Spring.”

    Phares admits that the democratic impulse in Egypt, which he had the insight to observe, is being thwarted by other forces inimical to that impulse.

    From my various Coptic friends, I have known about this for months. FOX News has just found out about it. Over the next fews days, we may also hear about it from the rest of the Western press, along with the Gulf States media like Aljazeera and Alarabiya.

    If, as seems likely, Christians in Egypt will suffer even more as a result of that country’s recent change in government, perhaps this will prompt some of the folks on this blog site to re-think their opposition to Assad in Syria.

    • Heracleides says

      Sort of like: ‘The Despot (Assad) of your Despot (Philip) is now our Despot (Assad)’ – sorry, but I am not buying it.

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        Heracleides labors to pursue premise to inference:

        “‘The Despot (Assad) of your Despot (Philip) is now our Despot (Assad)’ – sorry, but I am not buying it.”

        Whew! Who can blame him?

        • Peter A. Papoutsis says

          I wish I had an aswer to this US versus THEM mentality. Both within the Orthodox Church and as simple citizens of America and our relationship to the rest of the world. The Old World Patriarchates versus the New World Orthodox and their quest to breath free from their overseas overlords!

          Disrespecting the Ecumenical Patriarch, disrespecting Metropolitan Philip, disrespecting Metropolitan Jonah. People can has legitimate disagreements, can suspect and honestly believe their is corruption as I do in the various Orthodox Jurisdictions, but do we really have to be disrespectful and pit people against each other?

          Heracleides uses the word “Despot” against a church leader that has labord in this country to establish his Orthodox Church and mainstream his people. Former Archbishop Iakovos did much the same thing for the Greeks. His Grace Christopher of Blessed memory did the same for the Orthodox Serbs here in Chicago. Metropolitan Jonah was openly attacked and almost forced to resign by elements within the Orthodox Church in America.

          Now Hierarches make mistakes – i.e. The EP interpretation of Canon 28, Met. Jonah disrespecting the person of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Met. Philip’s handling of financial issues and the whole Ben Lomand situation, etc. But taking all this into account it still does not desverse such titled and ephitaths such as “Despot.”

          One of the things we forget is that the person or people in charge do their best, but are still human and mistakes happen and ego does get in the way, but more times than not they did what they had to for the good of the Church, at least initially, after that when time makes people feel deserving of place and honor and possible corruption sets in in one form or another the picture may definitely change, but “Despotic?’ I think not. “Human,” “Falible,” maybe even “Burned out?” Yes, and for this they should have our sympathy, and we should raise our voices for change, reform and true transperancy, but disrespect? No.

          Again, its difficult to be the guy in charge not necessarily because of the difficulty of the job, but because everybody, and I mean EVERBODY is gunning for you and trying to take your head off every single day. Don’t think its a cake walk everyday for the guys on the top. I assure you its not.


          • Heracleides says

            Ummm, Peter… you are aware that “Despot” is one of Bp. Philip’s preferred titles? The man positively glows when he is acclaimed as such. When I use said title in relation to the ever-so-holy-and-all-exalted-bishop-lord-and-master of Englewood and All Creation, it is with the utmost sincerity, as the nature of the man fits the definition of the word just as hand fits glove.

      • Tamara Hanna Northway says

        You must have intimate knowledge of what life is like for Christians in Syria under Assad?
        Do you know what is best for them?
        Please enlighten us with your solutions for solving all the problems of the middle east
        since you are such an expert.

        • Tamara Hanna Northway says

          This message above was meant for Hercliedes

        • Heracleides says

          How does my commenting on Bp. Philip’s preference in titles somehow equate to expert knowledge of life in Syria for Christians under the Dictator Assad? Please enlighten me Tamara as to your muddled thinking in this regard and perhaps we can go from there.

          • to all: My concern is that if we Christians are better off under despots like Assad then what will happen to us when they go? The idea that Christians and Jews can live under Islam is a tenuous one. Yes, in the abstract we can as we have. Yet looking at the entire 1400 year history of Islam, we can see that the life of religious minorities has resulted in the extinguishing of the native Christian, Zoroastrian, and Jewish cultures.

            It never fails to amuse me how some Americans today extoll Saddam Hussein as a protector of the indigenous Christian populations but absolutely hate the late Shah of Iran. When the Shah ruled Iran, it was a golden age of religious tolerance (and female emancipation). Yet the hatred displayed towards the Pahlavi regime by these same people is not consistent with their admiration for Saddam.

            Even secular despots are no guarantee of religious freedom. My grandmother was sent to Alexandria when the Turks took over her native island (Imbros). There to be raised in Egypt by her uncles who were successful businessmen. There were hundreds of thousands of Greeks living in Egypt at that time. When Nasser took over in 1950, he confiscated the wealth of the Greeks of Alexandria. In the 1920s, Baghad was a cosmopolitan city that was 30% Jewish. Ditto there when Saddam took over.

            All I’m saying is that there is no guarantee that Islamic rulers are going to do anything more than tolerate us. Sure, some of the more enlightened intellectuals of Islam are decrying the fact that Christians are leaving in droves because they recognize the stultifying nature of their societies without the vibrancy of the native religious minorities. But it’s too late for that isn’t it?

            • Peter A. Papoutsis says

              Absolutely correct. In fact, we as Christians would not do well at all under Islamic regimes.

            • Tamara Hanna Northway says

              My response is we should just stay out of middle eastern affairs and let them solve their own problems.
              Thanks to our meddling, Iraq no longer has a Christian population. They have all moved to Syria. The Copts in Egypt are now under attack after the so-called Arab Spring that our country supported. If the United States supports the Syrian protestors and they overthrow Assad you can bet your life that the Christians will be persecuted, killed and forced to leave under what ever sharia “democracy” is put in place.

              The west needs to stay out of the middle east and stop pushing these countries into democracies that none of them are prepared to handle. All of these countries will become like Iran. They will force their women to wear hijabs* and discourage them from getting an education.

              *Women in Syria do not have to wear a hijab like they do in Saudi Arabia or Iran.

              • Patrick Henry Reardon says

                As the Roman Catholics might say, “Bingo!”

                A few months ago, prior to President Obama’s inserting himself in the Egyptian situation, the American press was shouting for change of government in that country. The press was portraying the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as the rational voice of legitimate democratic impulses.

                Why did no one notice that the legal rights of women in Egypt were never mentioned?

                In Syria, women have equal rights with men, and two generations of the Assad family have insisted—effectively—that boys and girls receive an equal education.

                If the Assad government falls, Syria can say good-bye to all that.

          • Patrick Henry Reardon says

            Heracleides, with apparent insouciance to the improbability of his assessment, refers to Tamara’s “muddled thinking.”

            Oh, my.

    • Here’s a firsthand account of the murder of Copts (which I commented on above), from the Egyptian paper al-Masry al-Youm:

      For what it’s worth, Father, having spent years living and traveling in the Middle East, I find Fox News coverage of the region absolutely unbearable (though this doesn’t distinguish it much from other American sources). I recommend the English language websites of al-Jazeera (sometimes), al-Akhbar from Lebanon, al-Masry al-Youm from Egypt, and Joshua Landis’ site ( on Syria.

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        It may take some time for the rest of the world to grow disillusioned with the actual results of the “Arab Spring.” The disturbances we now see in Syria, I am convinced, will not lead to democracy or enhanced rights for Syrians.

        This past spring’s edition of THE JEWISH REVIEW OF BOOKS contained an article by Natan Sharansky (who knows a thing or two, after all, about bringing down an oppressive government), in which he expressed “real hope for a future of peace, liberty, and stability in the Middle East.”

        I think I felt a cautious agreement with Sharansky, when my copy of JRB arrived six months ago.

        It did not last.

        JRB’s summer edition included a piece by Jordan Chandler Hirsch, called “Railroads and Dragon’s Teeth,” an extraordinary exploration of British and German conniving in the Middle East nearly a century ago.

        One suspects that Hirsch was finishing that article just about the time things got interesting in Cairo.

        He closed his comments with a word of caution, which seems terribly apropos the present situations. I recommend his caution to Assad’s critics on this blog, who imagine that the situation in Syria is simply the rise of the freedom-lovers against their oppressive overlord. I cite Hirsch:

        “If the Western powers were tempted a century ago to harness jihad for their own purposes, they now face the opposite temptation: to see in the rebellious young men and women in Western clothing, the bloggers and Google executives of Tahrir Square, as their potential allies in the war against contemporary jihadis. But as the United States considers and reconsiders its approach to the people of Tahrir—in Egypt and across the Arab and Islamic world—it would do well to remember that the protesters are neither strategic proxies nor avatars of the American dream.”

  17. Jane Rachel says

    At least we can read more online to provide balance and more information. Here is a link to an article titled, “The Syrian crisis: a way to go yet”, written by “Amin Saikal, Professor of Political Science and director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (the Middle East and Central Asia) at the Australian National University.”

    The article, read together with the comments, was interesting and informative. The comment below, cut and pasted from the comments section, was written by a person who lives in Damascus, Syria:

    Assadsupporter, we are all entitled to an opinion and I respect the fact that you have expressed yours. Since I am actually living in Damascus and seeing the violence esculate in Syria on a weekly basis. I can agree that there are elements of “armed gangs” that the army is trying to hunt down as terrorists as you so aptly stated.

    However there is a lot more to this than meets the eye. The fact that the Assad Government’s catch cry is that it isn’t them that are causing all of the violence runs a little dry after so many months and so many deaths.

    The Assad Government is showing not only the disdane that it holds it’s citizen, but is showing the disdane that it has for humanity and morality, that these poor unfortunate people are dying for – and that includes boths sides of the fence.

    • Heracleides says

      Since they are acquainted and, if photographs are any indication, get along splendidly, perhaps Fr. Reardon can have a word with the Grand Mufti and ask that he show continued restraint and only condone the bombing of non-Christians in Syria… er, Europe and the US.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Herc, you bring up an interesting point. One that reinforces my immigration-restrictionist impulses and why I continue to execrate the name of the late Sen Ted Kennedy for the immigration bill he foisted on the US back in 1965. Regardless of whether our foreign policy is good, bad or indifferent, the fact remains that Muslims in the US are a potential Fifth Column.

        • They most certainly are not a potential fifth column, they are a fifth column. An Orthodox priest I met recently, an Egyptian native, told me that we’re lucky most Muslims don’t really understand their own religion, because the 10% that do are out to kill us. Also, according to information revealed over the last 5 years or so, it appears that approximately 80% of mosques are now controlled by radical imams.

          New York City Police Report, “Radicalization in the West: The Home-Grown Threat.”

          Center for Religious Freedom

          Mapping Sharia Project

          • Thank you for clarifying that Q.

            So what is to be done? How about this: both the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia have pressed for the construction of churches in Islamic lands. They have been pointed in their criticisms in that Muslims are free to build mosques (often large, imposing edifices) within cities such as Rome, Moscow, Paris, London, etc., but we are forbidden from erecting new churches or even repairing old, existing ones.

            Take the battle to them. Tell them “no more mosques in our cities until you give us a good reason why we can’t build a church in Mecca, or Islamabad, or wherever else.” I personally would make a donation to a church honoring St Louis IX built in Yemen.

            • Yes, but that doesn’t address the real problem: America is being eviscerated from within. It is raging with deadly moral viruses.

              First, Alinsky and the Marxists targeted the Catholic Church, infiltrating it and destroying at least half of it, and now the radical Muslims are targeting our cultural institutions and ingratiating themselves into positions of influence under cover of our enlightened body of law. (How does an open society protect itself from the exploitation of its own liberal freedoms without committing suicide?)

              Radical Muslims are now making their own long march through our institutions, and the results will be even more disastrous than the depredations of the Left have been. (Have you seen the children demonstrating against “Wall Street”? Intellectually, they can barely stand erect. In my youth, I wondered at the German nation’s capitulation to barbarism. No longer.)

              The fight against this disease–and it is a disease–has to start here, in the United States. And it has to start with us.

        • Heracleides says

          George, it is interesting to note that in his televised rant, the Grand Mufti makes a point of stating that the Muslim suicide bombers he threatens to unleash will be native American & European converts to Islam. Myself, I would not be at all surprised if his bluster holds more than a grain of truth.

          When completing my graduate studies at one of the largest state universities in the nation shortly after 911, I had the misfortune to run afoul of an American convert to Islam who was by far and away the more fanatical Muslim than any of the “cradle” Islamists who frequented the Muslim Center on campus. While I hate to admit it, I can quite easily see that white, middle-class undergrad nutcase elbowing his “cradle” pals out of the way to be at the front of the line to strap on a suicide vest.

          Only thing worse than a “naturalized” foreign born fifth column is a native Quisling class in our midst.

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        With respect to the Grand Mufti and myself, Heracleides postulates,

        “Since they are acquainted . . . .”

        Perhaps a bit more than that. When I was his guest a few weeks ago, I sat directly across from the man at a table less than a yard wide. The meal lasted 90 minutes.

        I found the viewing of this video very painful and sad, because I felt myself watching the emotional meltdown—in public–of a friend. This is very much what I would feel if the Grand Mufti were a member of my parish: sorrow and compassion.

        • Heracleides says

          Most enlightening. Perhaps for your next propaganda photo-op your master will send you to dine with Hasan Nasrallah of Hezbollah. You can then share your deep insights as to your utter shock, sorrow and amazement when he shows his true colors just a few days after your visit. Thankfully, he will have kept his true nature cloaked prior too and during your pow-wow so as not to spoil your extended gastronomic extravaganza.

        • Michael Bauman says

          I would offer the following piece of advice given to me by an Orthodox priest of Arabic ancestory and the son of a priest when I was talking to him about by Moslem neighbors who seemed quite friendly: “That’s nice, but don’t trust them, they lie to Christians”.

          In fact, if I am not mistaken, the Koran instructs faithful Muslims to lie to the infidel—and we will always be the infidel, no matter how ‘nice’ they may appear. It is the diplomacy of the dhimmi.

          Ask the folks in my parish who’s grandparents were forced from their ancesteral homes in Syria when their Muslim neighbors of generations suddenly set about killing them. Driven into the mountains, they were forced to come here to establish new lives. Or ask St. Raphael about his spiritual father, slaughtered in the steets as he was going to the assistance of his flock.

          Met. Philip’s Muslim apologia makes no sense unless he still drinks at the fountain of dhimmitude.

          Fr. Pat, it is quite doubtful the Grand Mufti is your friend.

          • Jane Rachel says

            Jane Rachel, pondering the Grand Mufti and his family more than anything else in her little tiny life, for at least two full days and nights (which is about how long I’ve known anything about him at all), imagines and speculates:

            Father Patrick walks a fine line.

            Having been through extreme trauma, I find myself wanting to cry.

          • Michael, the concept you right about is called taqiyya, and you’re right, Muslims are under no obligation to speak truthfully to non-Muslims. That doesn’t mean they won’t or can’t, but they don’t have to.

            • Taqiyya refers to a practice of Twelver Shia Islam, whereby a Shia faced with threats of persecution by the Sunni powers-that-be may deny his faith in order to preserve himself. Taqiyya is not in the Quran at all but was developed much later in response to persecution. There is no general practice or teaching that it is acceptable to lie to non-Muslims to advance the cause of Islam.

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      I became aware of this sad video earlier today.

      Three thoughts come to mind:

      First, the man’s son was just murdered by assassins supported by Turkey.

      Second, he really is concerned that his country will be bombed and/or invaded.

      Third, the threat is largely bluff. You’ve all seen pictures of the terrorists and suicide-bombers. How many of them were Syrian.

  18. On my first visit to Syria — last year, solo, two weeks, before even a hint of “Arab Spring” — I met a man who said: “Thanks to TV, here’s what most Syrians believe about Americans: You go to work, then go to a bar, have a few drinks, meet someone and sleep with them … then get up and do it all over again the next day.” I thought this was funny and repeated it, jokingly, to other native Syrians I met in Syria; they agreed. Thanks to their exposure to imported American TV programs, this was a common perception of Americans. Those who had never actually visited the US were relieved to hear that this was not the case, for most, in real life.

    All things considered, I guess you could say that — when it comes to perceptions formed solely by the media — we’re not all that different after all.

  19. “But has the White House missed the message?” Uh…yeah.

  20. this appears to me to be a Potemkin Villiage, and if I am correct it sends the incorrect message. Why do I say this

    1) Phillip meeds to justify the upcoming consecrations being held in the old country instead of in the usa – the sanity test says Americvan bishops should be consecrated in the USA

    2) only one person spoke Arabic – even if those who were seen spoke English, there is a lot going on behind the scenes

    3) good security forces blend in and are not evident, it takes a very well schooled eye to see them

    4) in a country where you are the minority concessions are constantly being made and are a way of life – you also abide by the old WWII phrase – “Loose lips sinck ships”
    bias perceived or actual needs to be eliminated

    5) if the delegation says anything negative there would be reprisals against the Christians in Syria – and especially those with whom they met -this is why we need a stong independent American church, one that can speak out and protect those Christian minorities.

    6) this trip was funded by Phillip ergo its result is what Phillip wants – the same would be true if Moscow funded a trip to Russsia to assess the status of the church there.

    7) the report would have had more credence if it were funded, as an example, by a University, and had Arabic speakers and readers and did not have any Antiochian clergy – any bias, perceived or actual, needs to be minimized

    8) why do I have these reservations? – because, for example, I read that when the Pentarchy met, the safety of the Christians in the MiddleEast was to have been on the agenda and was not – therefore a token participation by the Patriarch of Antioch – we als0o kinow that Christians have been fleeing the Middle east in droves.

    9) Yes, Assad may be protecting the Chrisitans to the best of his abilities – however there is a movement to reverse the tide – just look at what is happening in Egypt – where there are millions more Christians.

    10) All I say is think critically, see what is not being said, and be cautious

    11) may God bless and keep safe those faithful Chrisitans in the all the Middle East and may we see the light that, althought Russia has been their traditional protector, it now our reponsibility to becaome an united American church and to advocate and protect those who are and have the potential to be suffering for their faith. Amen.

    • George Michalopulos says

      All very good points RJ. They remind me of the great Contra debate during the Reagan years. When we finally forced the Sandinistas to hold an election, the pollsters reported that they would win election. When the results finally came in, the Sandinistas were routed.

      The explanation? P J O’Rourke said it best: here comes some Gringo pollster asking Jose Campesino how he’s going to vote. Senior Campesino thnks to himself: who is this guy? I bet he’s with the ruling gov’t, otherwise, how could he come here to my crappy little village and ask me personal questions. If I say “I’m gonna vote for the Contras, then I’ll probably be shot tomorrow, so instead I’m gonna play it safe. When the time comes for me to actually cast a secret ballot however, then I’ll say what I really want.” (Paraphrase of course.)

  21. Patrick Henry Reardon says

    rejklancko imagines,

    “Phillip meeds to justify the upcoming consecrations being held in the old country instead of in the usa”

    Hardly. That decision did not come from Englewood.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Fr Pat, I was not aware (or in the recent tumult within the OCA had forgotten) about the upcoming consecrations in Damascus. I would like to forego any subsequent discussion about the Mufti’s recent murderous outburst and pivot instead to the issue of the consecrations. My concern has been that we are seeing the “ingathering” of American Orthodoxy to its tribal roots. I’ve castigated the GOA for being a Byzantine nostalgia cult but the future consecration of Antiochene bishops in Damascus to my mind cements my fears about our resurgent tribalism.

      I am under no illusion that the present crisis within the OCA is partly at fault in that it cements the idea of the ethno-tribalists that our present failure justifies further dependence upon the overseas patriarchates. I was hoping that +Philip could see that there is an opening here in American Orthodoxy not unlike his previous visionary outreach to the Evangelical Orthodox whom he graciously accepted en masse into the Faith, especially after they had been thrown out by the Phanar.

      Of course I’m not in the AOCNA so my disappointment is to be accepted with a grain of salt and I mean no offense.

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        It has been widely rumored in the Antiochian Archdiocese, George, and never denied by Englewood, that Metropolitan PHILIP preferred to have our new episcopal consecrations to take place in the United States. If this rumor is true (as I believe it—salva reverentia—to be), this means that the decision to do the consecrations in the Middle East was made by the Patriarchal office in Damascus.

        Now what does that hypothesis mean? I believe it means different things to different people. Let me speculate:

        In Damascus, that decision may represent, among other things, a desire to tighten the ties of the Antiochian Archdiocese to the Patriarchate and its ancillary institutions in the Middle East. Although I am not disposed to call that desire “tribal,” it may look that way to folks outside.

        In any case, I suspect that the current political unrest in the Middle East may have something to do with the decision to consecrate our new bishops over there instead of here. That is to say, the folks at the Patriarchate (whose views, by the way, are far from monochromatic) may truly need the “boost” of this event.

        For my part, I am not disposed to begrudge them on the point.

        As for Englewood, I am convinced of this much: the decision to consecrate our new bishops somewhere in the Old World, is—emphatically—not a retreat from the Archdiocese’s commitment to the evangelization of America and the canonical unity of Orthodox Christians in this country.

        Metropolitan PHILIP has had a hard row to hoe. Indeed, he has several hard rows to hoe, and all at the same time. No one has worked more assiduously than he for the canonical unity of the American Orthodox jurisdictions and, simultaneously, striven to preserve the unity of his own Archdiocese.

        This has not been easy. You mention “tribalism.” This is a reality, and the Metropolitan has been obliged to deal with it. He has had his detractors—both in this country and in the Middle East—who challenged his loyalty to the the ecclesiastical authority that sent him here: the Patriarchate. I have seen evidence of his pain at this detraction, which is extremely unjust and bears no relationship to truth.

        On the other hand, there has arisen—during the past five years—an unprecedented level of criticism against Metropolitan Philip from the other side, those who claim that he has retreated from his earlier vision and enclosed himself in the tribal cocoon. This criticism, which I regard as totally bogus, is widespread. There are loud voices (mostly on Stokoe’s blog, but sometimes, alas, on yours) that treat the Metropolitan with the kind of contempt that offends a Christian mind. If Metropolitan PHILIP paid any attention to this phenomenon, he would never accomplish anything. So he never comments on it.

        Let me mention an example: Metropolitan PHILIP explained exactly why he chose mainly convert priests for this recent delegation to Damascus. He wanted native born Americans, new to the Orthodox experience, to see firsthand the situation of the Church in Syria. On the Archdiocesan web page, he gave the reasons behind his decision. Those reasons were clear and cogent. His decision was also of immense benefit to the Archdiocese, including my own parish.

        Still, several bloggers on this site, accused him of deliberate obscurantism for sending non-Arabic speakers. We non-Arabic speakers, however, pastor fully American churches. For crying out loud, if he had sent Arabic speaking clergy to Damascus, these same critics would accuse him of tribalism. His choice of delegates was overwhelmingly American. That is to say, it was the obviously American parishes that the Metropolitan had in mind to help.

        If the rumor is true (as I believe) that Metropolitan PHILIP preferred this country as the place for our new episcopal consecrations, then I suggest that he, too, viewed the event (in your words) as “an opening here in American Orthodoxy not unlike his previous visionary outreach to the Evangelical Orthodox whom he graciously accepted en masse into the Faith.”

  22. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    This just posted from the Associated Press:

    U.S. Says Iran-Tied Terror Plot in Washington, D.C. Disrupted
    By RICHARD ESPOSITO and BRIAN ROSS | ABC News – 3 hrs ago.

    FBI and DEA agents have disrupted a plot to commit a “significant terrorist act in the United States” tied to Iran, federal officials told ABC News today.

    The officials said the plot included the assassination of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubeir, with a bomb and subsequent bomb attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C.

    Bombings of the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Buenos Aires, Argentina, were also discussed, according to the U.S. officials.

    The stunning allegations come against a backdrop of longstanding tensions between Iran and the United States and Saudi Arabia. In the last year, Saudi Arabia has attempted to build an anti-Iran alliance to push back against perceived aggression by Iran in the region.

    The State Department has listed Iran as a “state sponsor” of terror since 1984. Officials in Argentina have said Iran was behind an attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992.

    The new case, called Operation Red Coalition, began in May when an Iranian-American from Corpus Christi, Texas, approached a DEA informant seeking the help of a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, according to counter-terrorism officials.

    The Iranian-American thought he was dealing with a member of the feared Zetas Mexican drug organization, according to agents.

    The DEA office in Houston brought in FBI agents as the international terror implications of the case became apparent.

    The Iranian-American, identified by federal officials as Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, reportedly claimed he was being “directed by high ranking members of the Iranian government,” including a cousin who was “a member of the Iranian army but did not wear a uniform,” according to a person briefed on the details of the case. Counter-terrorism officials said they believe the cousin may be part of the special operations unit of the Revolutionary Guard, the Quds force.

    U.S. officials said Arbabsiar met twice in July with the DEA informant in the northern Mexico city of Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas, and negotiated a $1.5 million payment for the assassination of the Saudi ambassador. As a down payment, officials said Arbabsiar wired two payments of $49,960 on Aug. 1 and Aug. 9 to an FBI undercover bank account after he had returned to Iran.

    Federal agents said the DEA and the FBI recorded a number of meetings and phone calls between the informant and Arbabsiar, some of them from Iran.

    Officials said Arbabsiar flew from Iran through Frankfurt, Germany, to Mexico City Sept. 28 for a final planning session, but was refused entry to Mexico and put on a plane to New York, where he was arrested.

    Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, expressed “utter disregard for collateral damage” in the planned bomb attacks in Washington, according to officials.

    He also reportedly told the undercover DEA informant that his contacts in the Iranian government could provide “tons of opium” for the Mexican cartels, according to officials who have reviewed the case file.

    Officials said Arbabsiar is now cooperating with prosecutors and federal agents in New York, where the case has been transferred.

    Senior Justice Department officials in Washington are reported to still be closely reviewing the specific language to be used in any charging documents.

    A spokesperson at the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., said she was unaware of the plot.
    Very interesting in regards to Iran’s continued involvement. Where’s the Shah when you need him?


  23. Patrick Henry Reardon says

    I watched the reports on this during the noon lunch, Peter.

    This is ‘new,’ meaning that it is no longer just “Arab terrorists” threatening us inside our country,

    Has anyone kept count of the number of such plots that have been infiltrated by our own agencies?

    The deep penetration effected within these plots could only come from Muslims loyal to the United States.

    To speak, in general terms, of America’s Muslim population as a “fifth column” flies in the face of this evidence.

    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

      I agree. It has been long known, and verified though various sources, that both the United States Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Administration have developed and hold on to various informants and agent clientel within and around all terror organizations that keep close tabs on their activities.

      The more established you are the more the CIA and NSA know about and keep an eye on you. In fact, its because of such familiarity with Osama Bin Laden and his organization that the lead up and execution of 9/11 should have been known by our government, most likely was somewhat known by our government, but through plain incompetence or oversight or internam politicas between agencies, that 9/11 unfortunately happend.

      One gets a glims of this through reading the 9/11 report, with a few glaring inconsistencies in the report that shows that information got to the agencies but was never acted upon. the 9/11 commission was supposed to follow up on these investigation, but never did.

      I believe that since the creation of the Homeland Security Administration, which apparantly took care of the issue of information sharing between various government agencies, that these remining issues from the 9/11 report will not be investigated any further.

      So far our government has been able to thrwart most terrorist and/or assassination plots, but in a few cases, like the Christmas bomber, pure luck saved us. However, remember the words of old Obi-Wan “in my profession there is no such thing as luck.” So thank God for the Christmas bomber failing.

      In any event, eternal vigilance in these matters is always needed.


      • Peter, another example of a Fifth Columnist being watched closely by the gov’t is the former Army psychiatrist Major Nidal, who murdered 14 people at Foot Hood, Tx about two years ago. I’m convinced that the reason the Army didn’t step in sooner is that they thought that by watching him, they could follow his messages to and fro up the Islamist chain of command. Unfortunately, they didn’t expect him –an “American”–to go all jihadist.

        Anyway, my point is that eternal vigilance would be easier if we restricted immigration to Europeans and Christians. Even then it’s not that easy, much to my shock and horror, I found out that one of the people in the Rosenberg spy ring was a Greek-American named Alfred Sarant. He was able to escape and became a colonel in the KGB. Other examples would include Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew who served in the Navy and gave military secrets to the Israelis. Although this was not as egregious as the what the Rosenbergs did, the issue is one of divided loyalties.

        No, America is not perfect –far from it. But it is the only country we got. If any of us think the grass is greener over in Bulbania, Ruritania, or Outer Crapistan, then one should go live there.

        • Peter A. Papoutsis says

          Yup. I agree. As for the Rosenbers, their family, according to the HBO mini-documentary a few years, many 10 years, ago still does NOT believe they engaged in anything wrong. That they were falsely accured or being traitors. Sorry to say to the existing members of the Rosenberg family but the government’s evidence was alot stronger and much more convicing than what you portrayed in the documentary. The Rosenberg’s were full fledged Communists and betrayed our country. As traitors, as much as I disagree with their ultimate punishment, they received exactly what was due to traitors under the U.S. Constitution – Death. May God have mercy on their souls.


    • Fr Patrick, I see the rightness of the point you raise, but what other choice does a country have but to infiltrate terrorist organizations? For a police state, it’s rather easy: just round up the usual suspects, put them in a gulag or just shoot them. Confiscate their property and exile their families. Lest we forget, the KKK was ultimately defeated because it was almost completely infiltrated by the FBI.

      I see your broader point however. It is certainly possible that the actual terrorists are agents provocateurs who have infiltrated an Islamist cell. (Godwin’s Law Alert: Hitler was originally an Army infiltrator of the NSDAP. But even if he took it to an extreme which the Brownshirts did not want to go, his message, like the message of these supposed Islamist infiltrators, fell on receptive soil. In essence, to the extent that infiltrators exist, they are different only to degree, not essence of the respective terrorist cells.

      Does that mean that I believe that all Muslims in America are Fifth Columnists? No, any more than I believe all American Jews are agents of the Israeli gov’t, or that all GOA priests are unpaid agents of the Greek gov’t (if we really want to press our analogy to a breaking point), but the fact remains that their culture does not allow them to assimiliate into our folkways nor are they based on Anglo-Saxon common law. Once a certain point is reached, then the Western majority (because of its own ethnic defects I imagine) concedes the public space to those groups which have no common cause with our culture. This is also a problem with the Hispanic population, as we witnessed about four months ago at a soccer game in Los Angeles, in which tens of thousands of Mexican-Americans cheered loudly for the Mexican team and booed the American team. This was a vile thing to do.

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        George Michalopoulos writes:

        “I see the rightness of the point you raise, but what other choice does a country have but to infiltrate terrorist organizations? . . . It is certainly possible that the actual terrorists are agents provocateurs who have infiltrated an Islamist cell.”

        Apparently I was not clear, George. I APPROVE the infiltration of terrorist organizations.

        As for our ability to do so (in the context of Muslim terrorists), this can only be done by Muslims.

        And they are doing for us.

        Finally, let me mention—because I have received so little obloquy today—that i wish Mr Holder, when he made his announcement, had declared: “These two suspects, after being water-boarded and subjected to other discomforts, confessed to the plot, implicated several other terrorists, and proclaimed their conversion to the Christian Gospel.”

      • “their culture does not allow them to assimiliate into our folkways nor are they based on Anglo-Saxon common law.”

        George, the same things were once said about Roman Catholics, Slavs, Jews, etc. etc. How many American Muslims do you know? It is perfectly possible for them to assimilate into American culture. I would also add that there’s no such thing as “Islamic culture” or if there is the term is so broad as to be useless.

        • Monk James says

          There is a well attested ‘christian culture’ in spite of the theological differences between the orthodox and the heterodox, and in spite of the theological differences among the heterodox. It all comes down to a basic commitment to the Gospel, even though the details vary.

          And there is also a well attested ‘islamic culture’. Merely consider how nonmuslims have been persecuted these last fifteen centuries whenever and wherever Muslims are in the majority, however that happened — and it’s usually not a pretty picture. It all comes down to a basic commitment to the Qur’an and the Hadith, both of which allow and sometimes require Muslims to attack and destroy people who will not agree with their religious views.

          Apart from their extreme sense of themselves as somehow superior to everyone else, and that the Arabs are superior to all the other Muslims (Muhammad himself asserts this), very little can be brought to support the idea that islamic culture has contributed anything to the human experience in terms of art and science, language and literature.

          Much like the originally asian muslim Turks, islamic efforts in these areas are imitative, derivative, stolen and unoriginal. They take everything in their path and contribute nothing. They sometimes assimilate what they like and pass it on, but they mostly just destroy the people and cultures they overwhelm and relace them with their own unproductive ways. Consider the rate of literacy among Muslims in the countries where they constitute the majority!

          This is merely one of the reasons for which only a two-state solution will work for Israel and ‘Palestine’. Were ‘Palestine’ to meld with Israel, israeli Muslims — given the difference in birth rates between them and the Jews — would soon be in the majority. They would then declare themselves a muslim state and history would repeat itself. Let’s hope that Israel has learned the lessons of history.

          Then, mutatis mutandis, we must realize that the same would be true in America and in other countries. Notice what’s happening in England.

          I regret being so dour, and I’d like to be proved wrong — but I’m not optimistic.

          May the Muslims come to understand that Issa bin Mariam is their Savior, and the only Son of God.

        • Matt, growing up the son of an illegal immigrant in the South, I know exactly what it meant to ridiculed and stereotyped. Your statement about “Roman Catholics, Jews, etc” is true as far as it goes. However Christian immigrants came here to assimilate –and did assimilate–and not take over Ango-America. I’d say that most Muslims as well want to assimilate. Islam however mandates non-assimilation and conquest of the “infidels.”

          Wherever Muslim immigrants have passed a certain demographic point in a host culture, they bend that culture to their will. Even though we are not at that point yet, our “betters” want us to honor Islam while they heap dung on Christianity. Look at that idiot Sen Pansy Graham (Scalawag-SC) who said that the free speech rights of Americans should be curtailed so as to not offend Muslim sensibilities. There’s a word for that: Sharia.

          Do you think I’m being harsh in my assessment of the Secular Elite who hate Christianity? Well, when the was the last time they had a Christmas parade in your town? Or a creche at City Hall? Remember how the Elites screamed at hollered and called us “bigots”? Say one word about Mohammed though and it’s all sweetness and light coming from these people.

          Make no mistake, these same people don’t believe in Islam but they hate Christianity. Marxist/Bolshevism failed to destroy the Church, now their looking for anybody else that can cow Christians into submission. The Homosexual agenda is one other method at their disposal.

          • Please note, I am not advocating a Crusade to take back Christian lands, I am advocating a policy of tolerance, but one that can only be upheld if there is no integration between Christian and Islamic civilization. (At the same time, if the indigenous Christians of these same lands refuse to defend themselves, then they should not cry about their plight. They had their chance to defend their cultures but they opted instead for Muslim overlordship.) America and European countries should only seek to welcome people who are culturally similar to themselves. And so should Islamic countries.

    • The Heritage Foundation – 40 Terror Plots Foiled Since 9/11: Combating Complacency in the Long War on Terror

      Tarek Fatah, Canadian Marxist, Muslim and Obama supporter on the fact that Obama has three advisors on staff from the Muslim Brotherhood.

      Although I have Muslim friends and co-workers who are dear to me, I have no such hesitancy declaring that there is a fifth column.

  24. cynthia curran says

    I agree with you there George on the immigration issue with Ted Kennedy. He went for family reunification over the old quota system. Countries like Canada and New Zealand and so forth based immigration on merit. So, yes are current immigration policy allows a lot of different types, usually a lot of low skilled or some that are dangerous to our security.

  25. Patrick Henry Reardon says
  26. G. Sheppard says

    I’d be curious to hear from Father Pat if he or any of his entourage took “gifts” to the Assad family or anyone else for that matter.

  27. Counterpoint says

    Just a note. Whatever the purpose of the trip to observe the safety and stability of Syrian the Antiochian Orthodox Church has decided to move the consecrations to Lebanon.

  28. Lola J. Lee Beno says

    Here’s hoping my post of an interview by Michael Totten, a reader-supported blogger, about Egyptian Christians, doesn’t get lost amidst comments in other posts trying to revive dying horses:

  29. I just read this article – it had been posted on facebook, and thought I might as well chime in on a few things that caught my attention. Now, I lived in Syria for more than two years (finally leaving in mid-April) and have spent the last five years mostly in the Middle East. My wife is Syrian and I’m nearly fluent in Syrian Arabic so take this for what it’s worth.

    Though I do believe that the fall of the regime would be disastrous for minorities, I couldn’t disagree more with the presentation of the information.

    In the more than two years I lived in Syria (Jaramana particularly), the fear that people display towards the government is unbelievable. Christians deny it, but they won’t talk about politics unless it ragingly rings of propaganda and then they do it only with nervous eyes.

    QUOTE; “Christianity has a moderating influence on Islam in Syria, he [President Al Assad] declared, and people are free to practice whatever religion they choose.”
    QUOTE: “Third, Christians in Syria are safe and happy. They worship in freedom without oppression. Both before and after this trip, several friends suggested that Christian support for the government in Syria is an example of the “Stockholm Syndrome.” That is to say, they speculated that the Christians in Syria are identifying with their oppressors to the point of supporting them. Let me affirm categorically that this is not the case in Syria. hristians in that country are not an oppressed minority, as they are, for example, in Egypt. Muslims in Syria have no political advantage over Christians.”

    What a load of B.S. My wife is from a Muslim background and is a convert to Christianity. Not only where the Christians too terrified to baptize her or to do any form of missionary work, regardless of how subtle, but they were particularly frightened by how the security would react. In Syrian law, everyone, save for Catholics, must follow Sharia regarding inheritance and if anyone wants to convert from Islam, it never happens. The Muslims go around freely proselytizing and the adhan rings out in the most obnoxiously loud tones day and night (though not as bad as in the West Bank). There were several families I knew of where the father converted to Islam and the government immediately gave him full custody of the children, three of those children were “hiding out” at Saint Taqla’s in Ma’loula more than two years ago while the security looked the other way – they had bigger fish to fry. In another family, the father went senile and converted in public in order to cheat his two older sons out of their inheritance and give everything to the younger son (the older ones had been embezzling from the father’s business and the father found out). In reaction, the youngest one, who was 17 at the time and thus a minor, was automatically registered as Muslim and all of the inheritance went to him. He was nice enough, though, to share ti equally with his brothers. The point is, if a Muslim only has one Muslim heir, everyone goes to that one heir even if there are dozens of other heirs. Even nine years later, he still couldn’t get his religion on paper to be changed back to Christian.

    QUOTE: “One of our questioners, persuaded that the Syrian government employed a large number of secret informants, make inquiry of President Assad on this point. He responded, “If I really had a large number of secret informants eavesdropping on the population, I don’t know how the strength of the uprising could take me by surprise. If we had a larger intelligence service, we would not need such a large army.””

    About three months prior to the protests breaking out, my then fiance, now wife, informed me that her relatives in the security had said that they were expecting massive protests. The president wasn’t surprised at all, they knew it would happen. Prior to this, I noticed the amount of Mokhabaraat (easily identified by their slacks, waist-length leather jackets, and neanderthal-esque appearance – they usually work in pairs with a big dumb one with a short snippy one) had gone through the roof. About one year before I left, I noticed my phone was being tapped and they tried to break into my e-mail and facebook several times, proof of which was that when I did sign on, messages were left about how someone had tried to access my account.

    Further, It’s a Stasi system in which you do your job and report. A Dutch friend of mine was being spied on the entire time he was in Syria. Finally, they dragged in one if his friends and presented him with papers asking him if he knew where the Dutchman had been. The papers were detailed enough that the exact time he entered and left cafes, restaurants, shops, as well as what he had eaten and who he had spoken to. It terrified the friend – but this is normal because, hey, it’s Syria. Plus, my wife’s relatives had told her

    As for the Christian leaders telling you the truth about things in Syria, that’s a long shot. Syrians in general, especially the Christians, are great at being stone faced about things. It took me several months to acclimate to the fact that someone’s father could have died days before but you wouldn’t know from their face. If they look upset or showing intense emotions, they’re usually telling the truth, aside from that, especially if they seem casual and non-chalant about things or exceptionally happy, they’re almost always feeding you a load. As for the Christian leaders, they would tell me stuff that was absolute bull. I recall when I worked at the Patriarchate, one of the archimandrites who was excessively flamboyant, would continuously slap me on the butt and try to hug me (not a Syrian activity, especially in public). I told one of the bishops, I think it was Bishop GHATTAS and he brushed it aside saying that I had “misunderstood” and that this was normal in Syria – in more than two years there, that gay archimandrite was the only one to do either of things things to me.

    As for Saria Hassoun being killed. SANA (Syrian Arab News Agency) was going around calling the protestors in Dera’ “terrorists” and “armed groups.” The moufti went down there and condemned the news for saying this stating that everyone he saw were peaceful protestors. He kept this up and openly criticized the government’s crackdown until…his son was killed and he suddenly became much more congenial to the government.

    I saw firsthand the unbelievable brutality of the regime as they gunned down civilians in the outskirts of Damascus as well as friends who went to peaceful protests and came back weeks later from prison with broken bones, dislocated shoulders, etc. Years back, my wife’s father went to jail for being in possession of American money (which was never returned to him, by the way) – he spent 20 days in a room large enough for five people, but filled more nearly 30. The floor had been flooded with sewage days before the group was put there

    As far as not seeing openly armed policemen there, I don’t know where you went and who ushered you around, but when I was there, they were everywhere. Just walking to work I would pass seven or eight of them. They’re rarely in the Old City, but go to areas like Baramke, Bab Mousala (I had to get my fingerprints taken for a background check in relation to a job that I ended up never applying for, but I had to go from “police” station to police station, the amount of automatic assault rifles I saw there was astounding), or Sahat Mouhafatha and you’ll easily see a dozen or so of them. Now, the need for this is undeniable, but saying you hardly saw this phenomena makes me wonder how much has changed since I left (is the regime so afraid of people reacting that they’ve done away with public displays of force in Damascus so as to “calm” people?). Two friends of mine who I lived with in Jaramana reported having to go through military checkpoints in order to reach work and my wife’s family on Sharia Baghdad isn’t telling us things are calm there. They said there haven’t been any protests recently, but when there was one, shabiha showed up and beat the living day lights out of unarmed protestors billy clubs and chains (I saw a smaller scale even like that one time between the Umayyad Mosque and the beginning of Hamadiyya and just seeing it was semi-traumatizing). Sharia Baghdad is also near the center of the city and the excessive fear in her family member’s voices when they talk is borderline measurable in decibels.

    I would also add that the Western media is being largely fed on a diet supplied by Al Jazeera and Al Arabia, two staunchly pro-Arab news sites who’s anti-“Imperialist” (i.e. Western/Christian/Israel) overtones are barely concealable. Why would they suddenly turn on the person who is the most outspoken Arab critic and opponent of Israel that the Arab political world has? The one who actively and openly supports Hezbollah – which is the most actively violent and militant anti-Israel group in existence?

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      that;s a good question. My hunch is that Assad is to close to the hated Iranians (who are not-Semitic but Indo-European). And of course because he’s a member of a heretical sect within Shia (which is also heretical by the lights of Salafi/Sunni Islam),.

      Thanks for the detailed narrative. /fascinating.

      • You’re welcome. I would counter that, though, with saying that even Hassan Nasrallah was the pet of many a Sunni dictatorships until this broke out. Also, keep in mind that Assad’s wife is Sunna, as well as most of the government such as Waleed Muallem who is a Sunna from Dera’a. But, ,he is a champion of “Pan Arabism” and “Anti-Israel” rhetoric, there is still no valid reason they would drop him any more now than they would have dropped him before. Why now?

    • Thank you for telling the truth, Denny.

      • I agree ..Thankyou Denny. Its nice you can tell the truth as you do not have to answer to a dictator or a despot. We need to hear more from you concerning Syria. I guess we could forward your post to AGAIN Magazine and see if they print it. HA! I’ve had too much eggnog..Lenten of coarse.

    • I am a little confused: if you wife was a native Syrian Muslim, how were you able to live with her as her husband in Syria? The Isma’ilis, among whom I lived (and who accepted me enough to talk politics, including political jokes about Daddy Asad-this was in 1992) would remark about the fact that they allow their women to marry non-Muslims (a rarity among Muslim sects:most require a Muslim convert, for instance, to divorce her husband if he will not convert as well), but the government absolutely forbids this.
      Granted it has been two decades (I have not been back since), but the Christians I knew knew a number of Muslims who converted. Yes, it was very hush hush, but a well know fact. I’m used to such things in Egypt.
      What I was not used to in Syria was the freedom the Christians had. A Coptic friend, who had just spent a year in Canada after his whole life in Egypt (he was in his late 20’s) came for a visit, and he was just in shock over the difference.
      I don’t know, since you do not mention it, but what your wife’s background in Islam and what she came to in Christianity may have affected your experiences and influenced your views.
      On Fox today, they were showing the school text books for high school in Saudi Arabia, which had a diagram to show where to cut a foot off of a thief (evidently vital knowledge to high schoolers). That is the one behind the move to oust Asad. Lord help us with what they have in store should they succeed.

      • Heracleides says

        Isa: “I am a little confused: if you wife was a native Syrian Muslim, how were you able to live with her as her husband in Syria?”

        Denny: “About three months prior to the protests breaking out, my then fiance, now wife, informed me…”

        That would have been about a year ago, and Denny states elsewhere they left Syria in mid-April. Small window of time (what, 14 or so weeks at the utmost) so it would appear they either married very shortly before departing or sometime thereafter.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Isa, I’m glad yiou bring up the Saudi connection. Everybody suspects t hat the israeilis would proift from the ouster of Assad but if this is so, then the Saudis would seem to be doing the bidding of the Israelis, wouldn’t it? We do know that they gave the iAF overflight rights if they want to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities but that’s a one-time thing I believe. I’ve long thought that things were way more complicated than we give them credit for.

        My suggestion? America should just get out of that area of the world. And restrict immigration from there as well. (Lest anyone think I’m a racist, I say restrict immigration from Europe as well. Also I said “restrict” not “eliminiate.” Take only those immigrants in who have marketable skills and will willingly assimiilate to our dominant Christian culture. None of this “press ‘1’ for English, ‘2’ for Spanish, ”3′ for Farsi,..”)

        But I rant.

        • Geo Michalopulos says:
          My suggestion? America should just get out of that area of the world. And restrict immigration from there as well.

          I rarely agree with your political or social reflections, but this one–spot on.

          • Geo Michalpulos says

            thank you Logan.

          • George said, “America should just get out of that area of the world.”
            Easier said than done. If it wasn’t for oil and Israel (and the Cold War, and Russia’s subsequent interests in the region), America wouldn’t be in the ME, which has no strategic interest otherwise. But before it can ever extricate itself from the whole mess, America needs to find solutions to the problems of reliance on ME oil and the Arab antagonism created by the partition of Palestine. In regard to the latter, given the US’s advocacy for partition since 1922, it’s a case of “you broke it, you pay for it”.

            • Basil says:
              George said, “America should just get out of that area of the world.”
              Easier said than done. If it wasn’t for oil and Israel . . .

              Difficult, but not impossible, if we had an energy and foreign policy that extended beyond the constant 4-year campaign cycle. The next decade hopefully will see a significant shift to electric cars. Couple that with bifuel vehicles (gasoline and LPG), continued higher MPG requirements, would go along way toward reducing the amount of foreign oil needed. As far as Israel, the US should move to being neutral. I would think the British had much more to do with creating the Israel/Palestine problem. In recent decades, our knee jerk support for Israel and being its chief arms dealer has certainly exacerbated it.

              • What would you do with the American Zionist Jews, and worse yet, the Zionist evangelicals?

                The US is stuck there for the foreseeable future.

                As to the Saudis and Tel Aviv: I think Tel Aviv is mostly (but not totally) sitting this one out, seeing that the Saudis et alia (or should I say wa-l-awaakhir) are pushing things in a direction they want, and then will get involved after the collapse of civil order in Syria but before the dust settles.

                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  Yes, Isa, you could say “stuck there for the foreseeable future” but that doesn’t mean –like NATO–we can’t start the process of disengagement. It would require reasoned, civil discourse without resort to bigotry and reliance upon our founding principles, as articulated by Geo Washington in his Farewell Address. It would also mean having to “uneducate” the masses here about multiculturalism and diversity, and proudly harken back to our Christian roots. It would also mean us Orthodox having show the Faith in its unvarnished form. Only then could we presume to preach to Evangelicals about how misguided their interpretations of the Bible are and have been since the time of the Reformation.

              • Geo Michalopulos says

                Being from the oil patch, I can honestly tell you that our “depenence” of foreign oil is largely mythical. They’re are thousands of oil wells that have been capped in Oklahoma alone over the past 40 years. ANWR in Alaska could take care of our oil needs tomorrow. A massive oil deposit has been found in South Dakota. A lot of the environmentalist movement has been ginned up (and subsidized) by the energy industry in order to take hydrocarbons off the market, to create a distortion as it were in order to keep prices artificially high.

                Plus, a lot of the instability in the Middle East is ginned up as well by the local plutocrats (and Russia) to keep the price of oil high. And let’s not forget that small-scale wars raise the price of arms thus keeping the munitions industries afloat.

                I hate to say it, but the only time the Middle East was relatively quiescent was during the Ottoman occupation.

              • George wrote, “Basil, the problems in the Middle East are well-nigh eternal and interminable. In the eyes of most Muslims, short of making the entire area Judenrein, there is no “just” solution.”

                I think one can be overly pessimistic about the possibility of a solution, understandably given the history. While I acknowledge the poisonous anti-Semitism among the Palestinian Arab population, one must also acknowledge the concessions Mahmoud Abbas has been prepared to make recently in connection with the UN vote on a Palestinian state
                (see which suggest that with enough good will on both sides a solution could be reached.

                Yes, the British are responsible for the Balfour Declaration of 1917, but one cannot disregard the US’s role since, particularly in the post-WWII era. Of course, both countries were influenced in their endeavours suppoorting a Jewish state by a particular reading of the Biblical history.

                Actually, ‘Christian Zionism’ has little to do with classical Reformation hermeneutics; it has its genesis in the idiosynratic Biblicism of the Puritans in 17th century England. That explains its subsequent influence on Britain and the US.

                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  Basil, your correction is on target. However the Puritans definately swam in the Reformist stream. Were they influenced by Anglo-Israelism? I don’t know. What do you think?

                  • George,
                    Yes, I would conjecture that the Puritans tapped in to a pre-existent stream of “Anglo-Israelism” in British culture, or at least a British acculturation of (or should that be “acculturation to” ?) the narrative of the Isrealites, whereby the story of Isreal became welded to the story of England/Britain (the nation of Britain being “grafted in” to the Israelite nation via the new covenant).
                    One book to read on this would be Barbara Tuchman’s “Bible and Sword”.

                    In any case, one should not think that all Protestants are “Christian Zionists”, they certainly aren’t. It’s really only that stream which derives directly from British Puritanism or which has been influenced by that hermeneutic who are, namely the Evangelicals influenced by Darby, Scofield, et al.

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              Basil, the problems in the Middle East are well-nigh eternal and interminable. In the eyes of most Muslims, short of making the entire area Judenrein, there is no “just” solution. I advocate getting out because there are no solutions there. Period. End of story. Full stop.

    • Lola J. Lee Beno says

      This has been really eye opening . . . thanks!

    • This is not at all surprising to me. One seemingly kind, benevolent face toward those who are known to be strangers to the culture and another stern, ruthless face demanding the unquestioning loyalty of those who have long accepted tyranny as the only possible means of order.

      I cannot fault a witness for reporting what he was allowed to see (who also freely admitted that he was not allowed to see everything – for his “safety” of course). I cannot fault a Metropolitan for caring about the people of his patriarchate. Nor do I fault the people of Syria – of whatever faction – for wanting us to “butt out.” Personally, I am of the opinion that the United States government should leave them alone to resolve their troubles. We clearly have no understanding whatsoever of their culture, and whatever we do in our ignorance would only make matters worse. However, I continue to believe that the Church’s involvement in the direct support of any political personage is a grave error…period. In the case of Syria I fear it will ultimately only exacerbate the challenges Christians already face in that country, possibly staining our hands with their blood in addition to that of those currently protesting. The Church is commanded to pray for political leaders “that we may lead a calm and peaceful life in all godliness and dignity.” She is also the prophetic voice of conscience: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” But she is not the voice of politics: “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight…but now is my kingdom not from hence.”

      It seems to this observer that the motivation was to provide non-Arabs with a broader, albeit carefully orchestrated, perspective of events to counter our typically American reactions to news from oversees; but I am not at all certain that the truth was well served in the process. One might say it has a very familiar scent.

      • Michael Bauman says

        Brian, you say: However, I continue to believe that the Church’s involvement in the direct support of any political personage is a grave error…period.

        Amen. In any country, any where, any time. Political leaders only have one use for the Church, i.e. to attempt to gain moral high ground they otherwise do not have. The Church and her people ALWAYS loose out.

        • Geo Michalpulos says

          Michael, what a tall hurdle. You’re right but we may be genetically incapable of doing so. I still shudder when I think of the GOA delegation to the White House 3 yrs ago when they grovelled before the current President, comparing him to Alexander the Great. Then of course Bishop Savvas’ laudation upon Obama’s election, using liturgical language.

          • Michael Bauman says

            The Orthodox Church has all but been crippled by the flawed concept of synergy between church and state and the ravages of dhiminiutude under the Czars and Islam. If it is not addressed it will lead to open schism IMO rather than just the practical schisms that exist now.

        • Yes. Michael. In any country, any where, any time no matter how much they may seem to be on ‘our side.’ It is a strong temptation, but it is of the devil and MUST be resolutely resisted lest we make void the power of the Gospel.

          Each of us has a responsibility as citizens of a constitutional republic to vote our (hopefully well-formed) consciences, but temporal political matters must NEVER, EVER be confused with the Kingdom of God.

        • Peter A. Papoutsis says

          Very true.


  30. Has anyone watched the recent news of Syrian troops firing point blank at civilian protesters? how would met.Phillip want Father Patrick to spin this? Shocking!

  31. And so another page in the sad story of Orthodox subservience to totalitarian political powers is written…in blood.

  32. Jane Rachel says

    Father Patrick Reardon illuminated:

    I confess that our experience of the previous few days disposed us to think favorably of President Assad, right from the start. For example, the abbess at the Shrine of St. Thecla in Maalula, described his visit there this past Pascha. According to her, Dr. Assad drove his car, accompanied only by his wife—with no one else in attendance, neither security personnel nor press. They dined with the orphans who live near the shrine and are cared for by the nuns.
    The couple spent the rest of the day with the orphans, who—the abbess said—look upon the President as a father. I think I speak for our whole delegation in remarking that the testimony of the abbess seemed very sincere and was most convincing. An identical impression was also conveyed to us, when we met with two Antiochian bishops at the Patriarchate the next day.
    Such impressions were difficult to reconcile with the usual image of President Assad on American TV, where he is referred to as a murderer and “butcher.”

    Are you proud of your leader using the Syrian Orthodox children as a carrot on a stick?

    One of these days, when I am even older than I am now, I’m going to give up.

    • There’s no excuse for being disrespectful. Clearly, Father Patrick was deceived. Let it be.

      • ” Let it be.”


        • Let it be ? So people will not be held accountable? I think I can see how Father Patrick and Father David were used but Met. Phillip is an integral part of this foolishness and mendacity…
          Of coarse Father Patrick will never admit he was used or could have been wrong

          • Incidents like this should serve as a warning about how Orthodox priests in America can be used for political purposes. Best just to cut the ties.

  33. The BBC reported last night that President Assad is cracking down on dissidents with many people being taken into protective custody and several fleeing the country….the Arab League still has observers in the country

  34. I saw on the TV news last night a BBC report concerning the number of children who have been tortured and killed by the Syrian authorities, including a confirmed case of a teenage boy who was murdered after being taken into custody by Syrian security at a demonstration. His body was later dumped at a hospital where his parents collected it. The injuries were horrific; full body x-rays showed a totally shattered jaw, close range gun shot wounds to the knees, and more. Is this being shown on US TV?

    • George Michalopulos says

      Basil, it’s a sad thing but it seems that this type of violence is endemic to these tyrannies. On the other hand, the alternative is not any better. There is no good choice here, just a less awful choice. The question is, which is the less awful?

  35. Agreed, George.
    But, you know, I have teenage boys – it’s just too horrible to contemplate.
    From what I know, though, even the Iranian regime is not as brutal with its own as Syria is or Egypt was.
    Could it be that the Islamic conscience is more morally attuned to respect life than these secular regimes, which seem to only follow the dictates of power? Not that they are perfect, either. Just thinking out loud.

    • It’s certainly possible. Also, Syria is probably the most heterogeneous country in the entire Arab world. The Assads are from a minority cult (Alawi) that is part of a minority sect (Shi’a) within Islam. Kind of like if Evangelicals ruled Mexico I guess. Anyway, where was I going with this? Mainly that countries that have a high incidence of heterogeneous populations living together, the level of intra-tribal/sectarian/ethnic/etc. distrust is significantly higher than in homogeneous countries. (Compare the US which is ~70% white with Canada which is over 90% white.) Crime tends to be higher and inter-ethnic crime when it does happen (like rape, murder, etc.) tends to be more brutal than when intra-ethnic crime. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Assads, who belong to a tiny minority, know how precarious that entire minority’s position is and they feel that they have to hold on to power at all costs, otherwise they’ll be exterminated.

  36. cynthia curran says

    Actually, the US might be more like 55 percent white, it just depends how hispanics define themselves. Low crime rate areas in the US usually have low afro-american populations. Irvine California where St Paul Orthodox Church mention here is a city that ranks with one of the lowest crime rates. Its about 39 percent asian and only about 9 percent hispanic and only about 1.8 percent black.

  37. cynthia curran says

    There were Jewish leaders in 19th century Britian like Disreali that were zionists. Disreali favored a more conservative zionisim. But in the early 20th century more socalistic zionisim took control of the Isreali government and up till the 1970’s the left favored Isreal Then Isreali became less left in its poltitics and the left supported the Palestinian cause. Today the zionist have more in common with Disreali than with the Kubbitz movement of the past.

  38. cynthia curran says

    Maybe the neo-cons and the evangelicals that have supported Isreal moved it more into a rightwing direction. Isreal has denationalized several industries during the past 20 years. Isreal and Turkey are probably the most sucessful economically in the region without a lot of oil money.

  39. cynthia curran says

    Personality, we should stay out of the politics of Syria. I came across on a you tube that shown far left elements in the democracy movement in Egypt, a british socialist confirmed this that those that supported democracy in Egypt hated the United States. Supporting a regime replaced might mean a more hostile regime to the US than is present.

    • Then tell Met.Phillip to stop sending his toadies to Syria who then come back and say how wonderful things are..there are people who for some strange reason believe the propoganda in AGAIN magazine…
      Its like Lindburgh or the Duke and Duchess of Windsor visiting Hitler and praising the wonderful progress in Germany

  40. cynthia curran says

    George its true that there were thousands of Greeks once in Alexanderia since of course it was a Greek city founded by Alexander as everyone knows. In fact, Cleopatria was a Greek. Greeks built the great library and lighthouse. I believe the architect Anthemius had some roots in Alexanderia, one of the architects of Hagia Sophia which explians its great achievement since Alexanderian Greeks were great in building things.

  41. cynthia curran says

    Well, George are you talking about the greater La area when you say 1 for Spanish and 2 for Farsi. La-Orange-Riverside is probably the most heavy place for Spanish and Farsi.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Cynthia, basically I’m talking the whole country. It’s nothing short of an abomination that foreigners are allowed to dictate the terms of the linguistic discourse. There’s simply no excuse for it, no moral rationale, no nothing. It’s nothing less than malevolent –to Balkanize us into different ethno-tribal groups.

      And this really hits close to home here: I didn’t speak English until I was 5 years old, even though I was born here. Had the public school I attended and the entire business culture for that matter catered to my needs, I wouldn’t speak English as fluently as I do. My job prospects would be severely restricted. That’s why I fully believe the Ruling Class wants Hispanics to be continually speaking Spanish, to keep them as a caste of peons. They knew that they couldn’t get away with this with European immigrants (who are not normally servile) and blacks have opted out of the laboring class, so they’re trying it with Latinos.

      • Monk James says

        I think that this is a very distorted POV, especially since the ‘conservatives’ (maybe all they’re trying to conserve is their money) are insistent that everyone in the US must speak English.

        George Michalopulos, born here, didn’t speak English until he was five. His experience is not so much a commentary on him as on his parents. If they wanted to be greek and speak Greek, they should have stayed home.

        Maybe they’ve realized this by now.

        The ‘ruling class’ — whoever they are — have it in their best interest to get everyone to speak the same ‘english’ language as do the rest of us.

      • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

        I can relate to that George. I didn’t speak English until I was seven years old. I learned it playing with American kids in the neighborhood in the summer and then off to school in the Fall where everyone else spoke English too. I still remember taking a test with a picture of a locomotive. I knew what it was (I had been on a lot of trains in Holland) but had no idea what the word was in English. That put me in the “middle” reading class until I decided to rectify it in sixth grade.

        For a couple of years I was the translator for my mother until she learned English. We’d go to the store and I would tell her what the shop owners were saying. She learned English too of course but it took longer. My father already spoke English and French so he had the head start.

        I agree with your statement that elevating non-English languages is really an attempt to Balkanize American self-identity. Underneath it all is a contempt for American values — part of the long, slow,march toward cultural mediocrity.

  42. Geo Michalopulos says

    Monk James, regrettably I must disagree with you. I wish you were right.

    In time, I will devote an essay to this problem but I can assure you that the elites of our country have done everything in their power to balkanize us, up to and including reviving irredentist claims against parts of the U.S. One of their vehicles to divide us is the NAACP which has degenerated into a racial grievance group. They are led by despicable men like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson whose stock in trade is to shake down rich corporations and live like pashas while doing so.

    Another one is the National Council of La Raza (which means “the Race”). This odious organization was founded by Jorge Vasconcelos in Mexico in the late 30s. One of his lodestars was the Nazi Party and its racial identity politics. (W E B DuBois, the black American Communist intellectual) likewise was astounded by National Socialism when he visit Hitler’s Germany in 1935). Anyway, Vasconcelos believed that the Mexican people should be a “raza cosmica” which would be made up of the four races living in Mexico –Castillian, Indian, Negro, and Chinese. Interestingly enough though, this race would look remarkably like people of his class, Castizos of Iberian descent with hardly any negroid or mongoloid features.

    • Monk James says

      Pretty much, the only irredentist claims which have any credibility whatsoever in the US are those proposed by earlier Americans. Not ‘native Americans’, of whom I and George Michalopulos and many others of here are. Even so, those claims dont get very far in american courts. Most of those issues were settled more than a century ago, although certain tax exemptions have made ‘Indians’ wealthy by purveying the very vices from which they suffer the most. This is so sad.

      Myself, I go to a regular dentist. [[;-D33

      Anyway, while I live on the west bank of the Hudson, not ten miles from where I was born in Hoboken NJ in 1947, I’m aware that in NYC (on the east bank) it’s possible to vote in Russian, Spanish, Chinese, and several other languages.

      This is ridiculous, since it’s not possible to vote at all unless the voter is an american citizen, and in order to be such, the voter must be able to read, write, and speak English. This is slightly modified in the case of Spanish, since Puerto Rico (maybe unwillingly) is an american province whose language is Spanish, and whose people may freely come to and go from the continental US.

      But Chinese? Russian?!! In New York?!!!

      Not being one who goes for conspiracy theories, but still able to see idiocy where it’s afoot, I don’t see anything like an ‘elite class’ trying to ‘balkanize’ America. at the same time as I see a lot of ‘political correctness’ running amok.

      Recently, we’ve heard of the ‘new incivility’, a sort of in-your-face resistance to all that PC nonsense. While I don’t think that either approach is good and right, I’m gratified to see that things are leveling off.

  43. cynthia curran says

    Fr Hans how much of Dutch is similar to English since they are both Germanic languages.

  44. cynthia curran says

    Well, George, the Mexican groups mention above are at fault but it wasn’t until the 1970’s when the started to get attraation this was the beginning of illegal aliens coming in mass to Los Angeles. Also, the late Kennedy changed legal immirgantion getting rid of the quota system. Prior to the 1970’s Los Angeles had the lowest foreign born population after that it and Miami beat out New York and Chicago since the immirgation now was from Latin Countries mainly Mexico and i the case of Miami Cubian which was more the result of the Republicans any Cubian touching US Soil was legal and not all the Cubians that came in the later years were being harm by Castro. It was better when New York and Chicago and mainly the east recieved most of the immirgation instead of California which was a lot less European when Ca become 27 percent foriegn born and New York only 22 percent as state averages..

    • “The new Hieromartyr Basil – a priestmonk in Syria who was gunned down by police this week while trying to help an injured man in the street. An image of what it means to lay down one’s life for one’s neighbour. May his memory be eternal and may he pray for us all, that we might be brave to be compassionate in the midst of life’s dangers.”
      لحظات من حياة الشهيد
      By: الشهيد الأب باسيليوس نصار

      • Syria Unrest claims a Christian priest in Hama & more Casualties
        (Omar al-Shaar | Dp-news)

        HAMA- International and local press also reported Wednesday too that
        Christian priest from the Greek Orthodox Church, the Rev. Basilious
        Nasser, was shot and killed on the second day of heavy fighting in the
        city of Hama.

        The Syrian state news agency blamed an “armed terrorist group” for the
        killing, while opposition activists in Hama said the priest was shot by
        a government sniper.

        The Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC), an umbrella opposition
        group, identified the priest as Basilious Nassar of the nearby town of
        Kafr Buhum. He died as militia members pushed into various neighborhoods
        in Hama, a bastion of Syria’s anti-regime sentiment, according to the LCC.

        The LCC said 24 people were killed nationwide on Wednesday, including
        six from the Free Syrian Army, a group of defectors from the country’s
        armed forces who have taken up arms against the al-Assad regime. At
        least four died in Hama, another four in Homs and five in the Damascus
        suburbs, the group said.

        In Hama, four people died on the second day of a government bombardment,
        LCC said.

        One of them was a Christian priest, Father Bassilius Nassar, who was
        helping a wounded man.

        In Homs, a woman and her five-year-old child reportedly died when a
        shell hit their home during clashes between troops and men believed to
        be defecting soldiers.

        But LCC said the priest was “martyred” during “a military campaign
        conducted by the regime’s forces”.

        Death toll

        The Syrian regime blames “terrorist gangs”, saying they are part of an
        international conspiracy against Syria, for unrest that has swept the
        country since mid-March 2011.

        SANA reported Wednesday “Five Law Enforcement Personnel martyred by
        gunfire of armed Terrorist Group in Apamea Town, Three Law-Enforcement
        Members Injured, Priest Basilious Nassar assassinated by armed terrorist
        groups in Hama, and another armed group kills a man aged 96 and his wife
        in Homs.”

        “Terrorist group burglarizes a warehouse for Retail Establishment in
        Hama, and other terrorist members caught and weapons seized in Hama.”
        SANA added.

        The UN said in early December that more than 5,000 people had died in
        the Syrian unrest.

        Speaking on her way into a Security Council briefing, the UN human
        rights chief Navi Pillay said more people had been killed since then but
        her office had not updated the death toll because of difficulties
        getting information.

        “We are experiencing difficulties now because of the fragmentation on
        the ground,” she said.

        “Some areas are totally closed, such as parts of Homs, so we are unable
        to update that figure. But in my view 5,000 and more is a huge figure
        and should really shock the international community into taking action.”

        As the fighting in Syria continues, diplomats at the UN say European and
        Arab nations are meeting to try to draft a new UN resolution to address
        the crisis.

        A previous attempt was blocked by Russia and China, and on Wednesday
        Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was open to “constructive
        proposals” to end the violence. But he reiterated his opposition to the
        use of force or sanctions.

        • Armed forces loyal to President Bashar Assad barraged residential buildings with mortars and machine-gun fire, killing at least 30 people, including a family of women and children during a day of sectarian killings and kidnappings in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, activists said Friday.

          The violence erupted Thursday, but important details were only emerging a day later. Video posted online by activists showed the bodies of five small children, five women of varying ages and a man, all bloodied and piled on beds in what appeared to be an apartment after a building was hit in the Karm el-Zaytoun neighborhood of the city. A narrator said an entire family had been “slaughtered.”

          The video could not be independently verified.

          Heavy gunfire erupted for a second day Friday in the city, which has seen some of the heaviest violence of the 10-month-old uprising against Assad’s rule. Activists said at least 10 people were killed across the country, four of them in Homs.

          Elsewhere, a car bomb exploded Friday at a checkpoint outside the northern city of Idlib, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, citing witnesses on the ground. The number of casualties was not immediately clear.

          In an attempt to stop the bloodshed in Syria, the U.N. Security Council was to hold a closed-door meeting Friday to discuss the crisis, a step toward a possible resolution against the Damascus regime, diplomats said. The U.N. says at least 5,400 people have been killed in the government crackdown since March, and the turmoil has intensified as dissident soldiers have joined the ranks of the anti-Assad protesters and carried out attacks on regime forces.

          Details of Thursday’s wave of killings in Homs were emerging from an array of residents and activists

  45. We just closed our Embassy in Damascus,Syria…The Assad govt is ratcheting up the brutality against Syrian protesters

  46. Heracleides says

    Looks like Fr. Patrick missed a significant propaganda photo-op last month with his Muslim pal, Syria’s Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun. No doubt the Despots’ were not pleased with the snafu. Seriously though, the photograph inside an Antiochian Patriarchate church says it all:

    • You really are a despicable human being. Stop going to church; you’re just wasting your time.

      • Looks as if a nerve has been struck. Met.Phillip ,Frs Patrick Reardon and David Bleam has been very quiet about Syria …wonder why?

        • Isa Almisry says

          Not really, but I’ll wait for Fr. Reardon to make a public announcement of recent conferences on this issue.

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            The problem with this photo is that the Christians just signed their death warrant. That is if things continue to deteriorate for the Assad regime as is becoming increasingly apparent,

            • Isa Almisry says

              Only if the US et alia are hell bent. Qadhdhafi, with no friends and no support, survived almost a year. Saleh in Yemen, with no outside support, still survives enough that he can even risk traveling abroad. If the US can avoid repeating its Afghanistan mistake, Asad can ride this out.

              No death warrant signing involved: those in Hamah and Hims agitating to take over have no problem killing Christians, or Muslims who don’t share their Salafi views.

  47. Syrian regime threatens Christians, clamps down on churches
    Sunday, 26 February 2012

    By Mohamed Zeid Mestou
    Al Arabiya Beirut

    As part of its campaign against all pro-democracy activists, the Syrian
    regime has been persecuting Christian citizens and clergy who take part
    in the revolution or help the revolutionaries.

    The Syrian regime issued instructions to all banks across the country to
    stop transactions with the Greek Orthodox Mariamite Church on charges of
    money laundry, said a Christian activist from the southwestern
    governorate of Rif Dimashq.

    “This step was taken right after the church started receiving money from
    churches abroad to support Syrian revolutionaries,” he said.

    The activist added that security forces killed Christian activist Friday
    Hossam Mikhail for links with the Free Syrian Army.

    “A few weeks ago, the Syrian army also killed priest Basilius Nassar and
    state TV held terrorist groups accountable for his death.”

    Nassar, the activist explained, used to deliver food to areas attacked
    by the Syrian army and was helping doctors out in Hama.

    The activist added that according to a priest who worked with him,
    Nassar was killed while rescuing a victim of an army attack in the
    Jarajmah neighborhood in Hama.

    Syrian forces also fired a non-explosive missile at the Convent of our
    Lady of Saidnaya north of the capital Damascus after knowing that its
    monks were involved in delivering medicine and supplies to bombed areas.

    In addition to delivering supplies to victims, several churches in
    Damascus and other Syrian cities have been giving lectures against the
    Syrian regime and its brutal repression of peaceful protestors.

    Three months ago, Syrian revolutionaries declared their solidarity with
    Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, an Italian monk who has for 20 years been the
    abbot of the monastery of Mar Musa in Rif Dimashq after Syrian
    authorities asked him to leave the country citing involvement in
    “activities unrelated to his job,” in reference to supporting the

    Under the slogan “Syria is your homeland Paolo,” Syrian youths took to
    the streets in support of Dall’Oglio. The priest was finally allowed to
    stay in Syria after pledging not to speak about politics again.

    Individual Christian activists are also harassed by the regime as many
    of them are summoned for interrogation on almost monthly basis while
    others receive threats whether directly or through their family members
    to stop taking part in the revolution or be killed.

    This drove several Christians to leave the country like activist Yara
    Nosseir who took part in protests and relief in Christian neighborhoods
    in Damascus like al-Qasaa, Baba Toma, and Bab Sharqi.

    In the beginning of the protests, the Syrian regime tried to win
    Christians to its side like it did with other minorities in the country.
    The regime tried to convince those minorities that protests aim at
    dividing the country along sectarian lines and that the regime would
    protect them.

    That is why the first months of the Syrian revolution saw several monks
    and priests from neighboring countries issue statements in support of
    the Syrian regime. Shortly after, however, the situation started
    changing with many priests arguing that since Christianity is a religion
    of love, justice, and equality, its clergy in Syria cannot support the
    killing of innocent civilians who are fighting tyranny.

    Several Christians also started realizing the hollowness of the regime’s
    words as they were reminded of the Syrian constitution’s stipulation
    that the president of the country should be Muslim, an article that also
    enraged several Muslim activists, who agreed with Christians that the
    presidency is a national and not a sectarian matter.

    Christians were more outraged at the regime after security forces
    attacked the historic Syriac Orthodox Um al-Zennar Church in Homs and
    stole its contents. This incident was followed by a remarkable
    participation of Christians in anti-regime protests.

    Anti-regime Christians have also established dozens of pages on the
    social networking website Facebook and which are all dedicated to
    posting news and videos about the revolution.

    Despite the increasingly prominent presence of Christians in
    pro-democracy protests, several activists still argue that it is not enough.

    George Sabra, member of the General Secretariat of the Syrian National
    Council, attributed the relatively weak participation of Syrian
    Christians in anti-regime protests to the church’s stance.

    “The fact that the church has not yet taken a clear position on the
    revolution makes many Christians still reluctant to take part in the
    protests,” he said to Al Arabiya in an earlier interview.

    Many members of the Christian community in Syria, Sabra added, still
    take the regime’s side.

    “As for Christians who have already become part of the opposition, these
    are mainly from the elite rather than the masses.”

    (Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

  48. SANA news agency, citing Minister of Information Adnan Mahmoud, reported that some countries, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, support rebel groups in Syria and bear responsibility for the bloodshed in the country. Mahmoud said, “Some countries, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, support armed terrorist formations with money and weapons, allying themselves with terrorists fighting the Syrian people and bear the full responsibility for the bloodshed in Syria”. On Monday, The Ministry of Information stated that the Syrian rebels purposefully kill civilians to use their bodies as a tool for destabilising the situation further, discrediting the Syrian Army, and attracting the attention of the international society. On Monday, al-Jazeera reported that the Syrian government’s crackdown on the opposition had grown in ferocity in the past 24 hours as dozens of people were killed in Homs and in another opposition stronghold in the north-western province of Idlib.

    12 March 2012

  49. StephenD says

    The United States on Wednesday flatly denied Russian charges of arming Syria’s rebels and bluntly urged Moscow to stop shipping weapons to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, warning that the “deteriorating” conflict was “spiraling towards civil war.”

    “We believe that everyone who is providing weapons to the Assad regime should halt the provision of those weapons,” spokesman Jay Carney said at his daily briefing.

    “Russia says it wants peace and stability restored. It says it has no particular love lost for Assad. And it also claims to have vital interests in the region and relationships that it wants to continue to keep,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters. “They put all of that at risk if they do not move more constructively right now.” The escalating war of words cast a pall on prospects for Russo-U.S. cooperation to end the fighting.

    Carney stopped well short of accusing Moscow of being complicit in Assad’s bloody 15-month crackdown on his opposition. Outside observers put the death toll at 13,000 people.

    “That is not what we’re saying,” he stressed, but reminded reporters that “Syria and Russia have an arms supply relationship that goes back a half-century.”

    Carney’s comments followed an angry response from Moscow to Clinton’s accusation on Tuesday that a shipment of attack helicopters was “on the way” from Russia to Syria.Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded that Moscow wasn’t breaking any laws with the shipment while accusing Washington of “providing arms” to the Syrian opposition, Reuters reported.

    “The United States has provided no military support to the Syrian opposition, none,” Clinton said when asked about her counterpart’s counterpunch. “All of our support has been medical and humanitarian to help relieve the suffering of the Syrian people, a total of $52 million so far.”

    “We do not and have not supplied weapons to the Syrian opposition. You know our position on that, and we’ve made it very clear. That position has not changed,” Carney agreed when asked about that allegation.

    “But the provision of armaments and weapons has been something that we’ve discussed with the Russians and we consider to be a problem,” Carney said.

    Carney said there was a “closing window of opportunity” to ease Assad from power “before the situation devolves into a broader sectarian civil war.”

    “The situation there is deteriorating, it is deteriorating quickly; it is horrific what Assad is doing to his own people,” Carney said.

    “We believe that the situation is spiraling towards civil war, and it’s now time for everyone in the international community, including Russia and all Security Council members, to speak to Assad with a unified voice,” Clinton said.

    The U.N. peacekeeping chief suggested on Tuesday that Syria was already in the grips of civil war, while Syria’s foreign ministry denied that claim and said it was fighting “terrorists.” In turn, Carney argued that such semantic distinctions are ‘largely irrelevant’ given the situation on the ground.

    “Defining the terminology now, or debating the terminology now, is far less important than making sure that we’re taking actions to — collectively to bring about that transition,” he said.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      I hate to say this, but I flatly don’t believe our State Dept. Recently, I came across an interesting report that documented that a recent massacre blamed on Assad was the work of the Sunni rebels. I plan on writing a blog posting about it.

      I’m sorry to say that the same neocons who are beating the war-drums against Syria are urging military action against Russia. It’s very possible that (gulp) Assad may be in the right.

    • I’m no fan of Asad, but we are not hearing the truth from the American media – liberal or conservative. It is as if they are incapable of perceiving reality as it is. Mr. Asad would do himself and his country a great service if he allowed freedom of the press to international journalists.

      From Samn!’s latest post on his excellent blog, Notes on Arab Orthodoxy…

      First, two news items that show the nature of the “Free Syrian Army” and the lengths they go to manipulate the western press, followed by a few articles about the worsening situation for Christians in Syria.

      The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung now reports that the massacre in Houla was in fact perpetrated by Sunni rebels against a family in the village who had converted to Shi’ism.

      According to the eyewitnesses, the massacre occurred during this period. Almost exclusively families from the Alawite and Shi’ite minority were killed in Hula, which is more than ninety percent Sunni. Thus, several dozen members of one family who had converted from Sunnism to Shi’i Islam were slaughtered. Members of the Alawite Shomaliya family were also killed, as well as the family of a Sunni member of parliament, because he was considered a collaborator. Immediately after the massacre, the perpetrators filmed their victims, portrayed them as Sunnis, and spread the videos over the internet.

      In the Guardian, here, a journalist for British Channel 4 TV tells the story of how his team was led by Syrian rebels into a dangerous situation, so that their deaths could be blamed on the regime.

      Alex Thomson alleged a small group from the Free Syrian Army deliberately guided the vehicle in which he and his Channel 4 News colleagues were travelling into what he described as a “free-fire zone” on a blocked road near the city of al-Qusayr, because “dead journos are bad for Damascus”.

      Further expulsions of Christians are occurring in the Homs region, this time in the town of Qusayr, as reported by Agenzia Fides, the Vatican news agency here.

      Exodus of Christians in the west of Syria: the Christian population has left the town of Qusayr, near Homs, following an ultimatum from the military chief of the armed opposition, Abdel Salam Harba. This is what local sources of Fides report, indicating that, following the outbreak of the conflict, out of the ten thousand faithful who lived in the town, only a thousand have remained, who have now been forced to flee in haste to fury. Some mosques in the city have re-launched the message, announcing from the minarets: “Christians must leave Qusayr within six days, which expires this Friday.”

      Also from Agenzia Fides:

      “The desolation of Homs and the war of information “: the words of a greek-catholic Bishop
      The picture for us – he continues – is utter desolation: the church of Mar Elian is half destroyed and that of Our Lady of Peace is still occupied by the rebels. Christian homes are severely damaged due to the fighting and completely emptied of their inhabitants, who fled without taking anything. The area of Hamidieh is still shelter to armed groups independent of each other, heavily armed and bankrolled by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. All Christians (138,000) have fled to Damascus and Lebanon, while others took refuge in the surrounding countryside. A priest was killed and another was wounded by three bullets.

      Christians kidnapped: after Houla, they are possible target for revenge
      A [Syrian Greek-]Catholic family, who arrived in Lebanon from Qusayr, told Fides that he left the village because of fighting between the army and rebels, but especially for the plague of kidnappings: Many Christians are picked up by masked men, some with a local accent, others no. The kidnappers ask for huge ransoms. One of their Christian relatives – tell the refugees – was killed, kidnapped and tortured because [they were] “non-aligned with the revolutionaries.”

      Finally, a report from a Christian living in Wadi al-Nasara, posted to Joshua Landis’ Syria Comment here.

      Over 40 young men (including a couple of doctors) from the Wadi area, we’re killed by the bearded men who are eager to give us democracy. In a few of these killing, they decapitated the bodies and severed limbs. In one occasion, they gave the body back to the family but kept the head and put it on top of a hill. They stood about a couple hundred feet and challenged anyone to come pick it up. Finally a guy drove his pickup truck in high speed and picked up the head under fire.

      Here is another one: at one point, Crac de Chevaliers became a multinational hub of Afghani, Libyans and Lebanese bearded men. The Afghanis were actually non-threatening. But the two Arab groups had an argument as to which sheikh should rule the castle. There was a Libyan sheikh and a Lebanese one. A fire fight erupted, and a few martyrs died. Now the castle was finally cleaned up by the army. It turned out that the Lebanese sheikh was actually wanted in Lebanon for commuting several murders. He was caught alive.

      … This is the sad truth. The good news is that the security situation is steadily improving. The hope is that the refugees will return to their homes and start the rebuilding process…..
      Most of them settled in Tartous, Latakia, Aleppo or Damascus. My sister made new friends from Homs, who only had their clothes and left everything behind. A few who are well to do rented shops and started their businesses (or clinics) there.

      Another story: my first cousin’s sister in law fled her house in bustan al deewan because of daily harassment by the militants from Baba Amr and al-khalideeah. A few weeks after she left, she called her own home number. A guy answers the phone. She asked who he is. He gave a name. She asked “what are you doing here”. He said he lives there. She told him “but this is my house”. He said “the priest of the local church gave it to me”.

      The militants constantly drive through the area, and either fire shots in the air, or show their weapons. They have essentially settled in the empty houses. They only leave when the government forces kick them out, only to return later when the cat is away from the rat.
      Churches are demolished inside. Anything of value is stolen. Things of little value are thrown on the street and destroyed.

      A distant relative of mine (in his seventies) was shot in his leg. When his family tried to take him to a hospital, the long-bearded men didn’t allow them to touch him. He bled to death. He was from marmarita living in Homs.

  50. Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

    Netanyahu and the King of Saudi Arabia alike are uniquely exempt from substantial criticism or censure by the U.S. Even though 9/11 was accomplished by 100 per cent Saudis, we publicly and physically assailed just about everyone BUT Saudi Arabia. Does anyone imagine that the (Sunni) Syrian rebels are financed by anyone but Saudi Arabia? No complaints from our State Dept now or ever. Cheney would have invaded Syria by now. That’s the main difference between him and Hilary: Hilary supports exactly the same people/types as did Cheney, only Cheney insisted on throwing our troops into the fray.
    With the proper pressure and threats against Saudi Arabia, Al Qaeda could have been shut down within a year of 9/11, and Prince Osama Bin Laden staked out and stoned. Of course, that would be to place the highest priority on defending our American way of life, not our way of doing business, that is, our national strategic goals or OIL.

  51. cynthia curran says

    Well christians can be treated better by some bad rulers. I copied and paste this since a lot on this board are familar with Roman history. Christians were trated better on Commodus than his fahter Marcus Aurelius. WHAT WAS COMMODUS REALLY LIKE?

    If the ancient sources can be trusted, Commodus was even more bizarre in real life than he was in the film.

    Commodus, whose full name was Caesar Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus, was proclaimed Caesar at age 5 and joint emperor (co-Augustus) at the age of 17, in 177 CE, by his father, Marcus Aurelius. Reality was very different than the film in this instance. Commodus was, as depicted in Gladiator, present with his father during the Danubian wars, and yes, this is where Marcus Aurelius died. As for the actual circumstances of his father’s death, see below.

    Historians from the time of Commodus have not been kind to him. As aristocratic intellectuals, they were not amused by his crude antics. Hence, our present day historiography still reflects, rightly or wrongly, this ancient bias. His father, possessing the virtues seen as noble by the literate aristocracy, was, and often still is, regarded as a great man, while his son was hated by the Senate and ridiculed by historians. Yet it is said that the army and the lower classes loved him. Cassius Dio, a senator and historian who lived during the reign of both Commodus and his father wrote, in regards to the accession of Commodus, that “our history now descends from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust, as affairs did for the Romans of that day.”

    Indeed, some historians even question his sanity. Commodus, in his own time, was accused of being a megalomaniac. He renamed Rome Colonia Commodiana, the “Colony of Commodus”, and renamed the months of the year after titles held in his honour, namely, Lucius, Aelius, Aurelius, Commodus, Augustus, Herculeus, Romanus, Exsuperatorius, Amazonius, Invictus, Felix, and Pius. The Senate was renamed the Commodian Fortunate Senate, and the Roman people were given the name Commodianus.

    Historian Aelius Lampridius tells us that “Commodus lived, rioting in the palace amid banquets and in baths along with 300 concubines, gathered together for their beauty and chosen from both matrons and harlots… By his orders concubines were debauched before his own eyes, and he was not free from the disgrace of intimacy with young men, defiling every part of his body in dealings with persons of either sex.”

    Commodus went so far as to declare himself the new founder of Rome, a “new Romulus”. In attempting to boast a new “Golden Age” of Rome, he was clearly emulating his father. But the effect was to make him the laughing stock of the aristocratic class.

  52. cynthia curran says

    I mean they were treated better under Commodus reign than Marcus Aurelius.