72 Hours with Father Paolo of Syria

“Do you think it is a worthy project – worthy to Christian dignity, to side with a regime with this style of violence and repression.” – Father Paolo Dall’Oglio giving a message to Syrian Christians.

A conversation with Father Paolo on Sectarianism, Clergy, and the direction of the Syrian Revolution.

Background to the Conversation.

I had only heard good things about Father Paolo prior to having the privilege to host him in NYC for 72 hours at the conclusion of his North America tour. I had read about his work spanning 30 years in Syria, how he rebuilt Deir Mar Musa from abandon, how he considered himself homeless until he could return to Syria and was even told by activists in Syria to “give him a huge hug” when he arrived.

From everything I heard, he sounded almost too good to be true. However shortly after meeting him I realized I would not be disappointed and became truly impressed with this man’s honesty, humility, candor and passion.

In his short stay, we organized numerous events, meetings and press activities to ensure his message of support for the revolution, unity and national reconciliation could be amplified (see recap of activities). Afterall, Father Paolo has been an importance voice of reason in this struggle – he is a witness to the Assad regime crimes which have impacted Syrians of all backgrounds and has done much to combat Assad apologists who have deceitfully perpetuated regime lies that minorities have been targeted, as we’ve seen recently with “Assad instrument” the nun Mother Agnes Mariam.

Over and over, throughout all conversations, his messages were clear. To summarize:

  • The regime has committed terrible atrocities in response to the demands for freedom and must go, now
  • Religion should be an asset for Syrian unity, not a tool in service of the regime
  • Rejection of sectarianism, and the myth that Assad is the protector of minorities, and that Christians have been targeted by so-called “Islamists”
  • Emphasis on the critical role Christians (and other minorities) have in supporting the revolution
  • Syrians have the right and duty to defend themselves, through civil and military resistance
  • Syria will not be used as a tool by the Russians, Iranians NOR the ‘West’ – this is a ‘Syrian-centric’ revolution
  • The international community, namely the UN has a moral responsibility to protect civilians through the use of peacekeepers & observers from “unaligned” nations
  • We must all work hard towards national reconciliation, and a Syria grounded in equality and pluralism
  • We must all work towards one, unified, post-Assad Syria while rejecting sectarianism, vengeance and repression in all its forms

He answered all questions from reporters, policy influencers, community members with grace and thoughtfulness and even a touch of humor. When asked what will happen next by a packed room of reporters at a press conference by the UN, he whimsically responded that he was a priest not a prophet.

Masked by his charisma however, you can feel his pain and anguish stemming from the devastation occurring in his adopted homeland: “all our feelings are with our martyrs and their families” he often states.

With that said, he stays focused on ensuring the aspirations of this revolution are always in sight. As he concludes in his statement on the occasion of his visit to the United Nations:

The “one Syria” we are all fighting for will be a homeland for all of us regardless of our religious, ethnic or ideological belonging. Unity in harmony is our goal which will shape a project of justice and peace for the Arab nation and the Middle East region altogether.

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8 thoughts on “72 Hours with Father Paolo of Syria

  1. Why are you using the term “so called Islamists” you’re undercutting your argument by denying that there are Islamists. Are you delusional? There are Islamists and there is a tiny minority of violent Salafist/Al Qaeda foreiign fighters in Syria. If you wish to live in a fantasy world on this issue it undercuts your position. The government has committed grave atrocities; why undercut your argument with statements like that?

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    1. Hello Mark – I’m using the term ‘so-called Islamists’ within the context of a sentence rejecting the Assad myth:

      “…Christians have been targeted by so-called “Islamists””

      I’m not denying nor speaking to the presence of Islamists, rather to the Assad claim which Is being rejected.

      Thank you.

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  2. I support free and fair elections and a change in Syria; just to be clear. There have in fact been atrocities against Christians in Syria. My family in Quseir has been targetted and there are jihadists from Pakistan and Afghanistan in Qseir. There was an announcement from a FSA or some other militant from the Mosque speakers for all Christians to evacuate Qseir or face death. There is proof of extremism; I don’t give a %^& what the official spokespeople say– what matters to me is that we call a spade a spade.

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    1. Hello Mark,

      Please share the proof of your claim of atrocities on Christians or that extremists were expelling Christians via announcements from mosques – there is a pro-regime article that propagates this story however it is rebutted heavily and there is a lack of footage or eyewitness testimony to corroborate it.

      With that said, there are a few things we do know from people who were there in Qusair, like Father Paolo and others:

      1- Christians and Muslims alike have fled the town due to the regime offensive

      2- Pro-regime officials/ reps in the town were targeted and many fled, some of whom where Christian (some also Muslim) however this had to do with their standing with the regime, not their religious affiliation

      3 – Sadly there is tension, fear and distrust between communities – one of the key goals of regime tactics all across Syria

      Finally, I cannot speak to your family’s experience, why they have been targeted as you say, and what they have gone through – I sincerely hope they are safe and sound.

      Thank you.

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