By Mairead Maguire
BELFAST (IPS) – In November 2015 I visited Syria together with an International Peace delegation. This was my third visit to Syria in the last three years. As on previous occasions I was moved by the spirit of resilience and courage of the people of Syria.
In spite of the fact that for the last five years their country has been plunged into war by outside forces the vast majority of the Syrian people continue to go about their daily lives and many have dedicated themselves to working for peace and reconciliation and the unity of their beloved Syria. They struggle to overcome their fear, that Syria will be driven by outside interference and destructive forces within, to suffer the same terrible fate of Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Yemen, and so many other countries.
Many Syrians are traumatized and in shock and ask ‘how did this happen to our country’? Proxy wars are something they thought only happened in other countries, but now Syria too has been turned into a war-ground in the geo-political landscape controlled by the western global elite and their allies in the Middle East.
Many of those we met were quick to tell us Syria is not experiencing civil war but a foreign invasion. To tell us too that this is not a religious conflict between Christians and Muslims who, in the words of the Patriarch Gregorios III Laham ‘Muslims and Christians not only dialogue with each other but their roots are inter-twined with each other as they have lived together over 1436 years without wars, despite disagreements and conflicts…over the years peace and co-existence have outweighed controversy.’ In Syria our delegation saw that Christian and Muslim relationships can be more than mutual tolerance, they can be deeply loving.