Last week in Great Britain, two quite distinct yet equally compelling warnings were issued about the spreading chaos and mayhem in the Middle East. They grabbed our attention because of the urgency of the messages and the credentials of the messenger.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, the Pakistani-born former Anglican Bishop of Rochester, England, and co-head of the Anglican-Al Azhar Dialogue, warned of ominous conditions faced by minority populations in countries where an “Arab Spring” has ruptured the old order.
In particular, Bishop Nazir-Ali sounded an alarm for the safety of Christians. He pointed out that since late 2010, when Arab Spring uprisings began, “Christian minority groups, especially in Syria and Egypt, have come under increasing persecution.” Islamic fundamentalists have very little tolerance for the minorities in their midst, he emphasized. Casting his ever-worried eyes at Syria, Bishop Nazir-Ali expressed pointed fears about the fate of the region’s Christian minorities in the wake of what he termed the “Islamic resurgence” and the coming “huge-scale Shia-Sunni conflict.” His fears are well-founded. Christians are leaving the Arab Middle East in large numbers.
In a newspaper article last Saturday, Brooks Newmark, the British Conservative MP for Braintree in Essex, warned the West about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s genocidal inclinations toward his own people.
Newmark based his warning on a series of meetings he had with Assad between 2006 and 2011. To protect his family and his family’s control on power, Assad is “is willing to destroy Syria completely and kill its people in vast numbers,” Newmark wrote. The events of the past two years have proven Newmark to be correct.
The civil war in Syria began in March 2011 as a peaceful protest against the iron-fisted rule of the regime. Since then, United Nations officials estimate more than 80,000 Syrians have been killed. And they continue to be killed each day, each week.
Those very same United Nations officials pleaded with the world last week – mostly with the nations of the West – to provide $5.1 billion to cope with the cruel, inhumane mess that Bashar and his sponsors in Iran have created. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians are desperately fleeing their country into Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. The UN actually believes that as many as 3.5 million Syrians could be refugees outside their country by the end of 2013. They also estimate 4.2 million Syrians are displaced inside the country itself, and 6.8 million more are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
The West is at an uncomfortable crossroad. On one side is the plea directed to the western conscience to save human lives. On the other side are the despot of Syria, the Islamic theocrats of Iran and the Cold War-oriented politbureaucrats of Moscow who are indifferent to that human life.
Western inaction is not an option.