قدمت الدكتورة ميرنا داوود هذه المداخلة باللغة الإنكليزية في جلسة عصف فكري للرابطة الثقافية في مدينة لوس انجلس والتي ناقشت فيها فرص عودة المسيحيين بعد انتهاء الحرب السورية. وينشرها موقع "اليوم الثالث" بنصها الأصلي لما لذلك من أهمية في مخاطبة الرأي العام الغربي والأميركي

 

The Christian element, as one of the original components of the Middle Eastern region, is no longer available, since it stands in the midst of all events that had happened in the last ten years, especially the forced Immigration and forced transfer of such ethnic communities. Despite the defeat of the terrorist organization ISIS and the liberation of the Christian cities and villages in the region, many Christians in Syria are in doubt and still not sure about the possibility of returning to their areas, especially the large numbers of Christian immigrants who sought refuge in Europe and Canada. They already began to adapt to their new environment and integrate with their new communities; they found jobs that are not currently available in the motherland of Syria. 

Harsh questions to the Syrian Christians

Syrian Christians have doubts about their future in the Middle Eastern region in general, and in Syria in particular. We cannotignore the magnitude of the demographic changes that have taken place on the Syrian arena. Recent Statistics clearly indicate that the number of Christians in the region has dropped to nearly half. There is a belief among the Christians of Syria that their problems were not only limited to the emergence of terrorist organizations. The ISIS phenomenon was merely anembodiment of deeper-rooted problems, which extended for many years. The rapid rise of fundamentalist organizations and their control of vast areas of Syria's territory have reflected major challenges facing the country's Christians. Such challenges include but not limited to the weakening of social ties between the Christian communities and their general surroundings. This issue by itself is a dangerous indicator. 

Many Syrian Christians, who were forced out of the country by the winds of war, seriously doubt that security and stability will be promptly restored in their devastated regions. It takes years to get things back to normal; therefore, there are minimum chances of their return to their areas in the meantime. 

In spite of the Rhetoric about peaceful coexistence between all parties in the region and because of the collapse of such culture and the sudden rise of fundamentalist movements, some Syrian Christian immigrants are not able to imagine any possibility of coexistence in some of these areas. This is a direct result of the deepened rift caused by years of rule by fundamentalist groups. It is also confirmed that large segments of Christians do not feel safe to live again in predominantly single-sect areas, after the experience they went through under the rule of such terrorist organizations. They merely have lost faith in their neighbors of different religions and sects.

A political path for social reconciliation

Experiences on the ground have confirmed that the process of coexistence between Christians and other communities from different sects has received painful blows. Undoubtedly, the defeat of terrorism on the Syrian soil is an important stepto achieving peace in the country, but the consolidation of this peace requires more than just military action to calm the fears of various sects about their future, especially the Christian communities.

Therefore, it is necessary to launch a serious process of reforming the concerned institutions in the country, which allows for the establishment of democratic system that incubatesreligious and ethnic diversity, and at the same time, would be able to curb the specter of sectarianism. In addition to the required administrative reforms, there is an urgent need to work at the community level to bridge the rift between the Christians and their surrounding communities, in order to rebuild bridges of trust between the various sectors of society. This can only be achieved through serious dialogue between all parties.

In this case, we cannot separate issues regarding the future of the Christians in Syria, from issues of the rest of Christians in theMiddle Eastern region, including their various religious and ethnic identities. Therefore, working for the protection of the Christians in this region is directly in correlation with building an advanced nation, where all citizens enjoy their rights,regardless of their sectarian and ethnic identities.