A NUN who has been superior at a Syrian monastery for the past
18 years has warned that media coverage of ongoing violence in
that country has been “partial and untrue”. It is “a fake”,
Mother Agnes Mariam said, which “hides atrocities committed in
the name of liberty and democracy”.
of the Melkite Greek Catholic monastery of St James the
Mutilated in Qara, in Syria’s diocese of Homs, which is in full
communion with Rome, she left Ireland yesterday after a
three-day visit during which she met representatives of the
Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth.
She told The Irish Times she was in Ireland “not to advocate for
the (Assad) regime but for the facts”. Most news reports from
Syria were “forged, with only one side emphasised”, she said.
This also applied to the UN, whose reports were “one-sided and
not worthy of that organisation”.
UN observers in Syria had been “moderate with the rebels and
covered for them in taking back positions after the withdrawal
of heavy equipment, as seen so tragically in Homs”, she said.
When it was put to her this suggested the whole world was out of
step except for Syria, Russia and China, she protested: “No, no,
there are 20 countries, including some in Latin America” of the
The reason the media was being denied easy access to Syria
currently was because in the Libyan conflict journalists placed
electronic devices for Nato in rooms used at press conferences
in that country, she said. “So Syria didn’t want journalists,”
Christians make up about 10 per cent of Syria’s population,
dispersed throughout the country, she said. The Assad regime
“does not favour Christians”, she said. “It is a secular regime
based on equality for all, even though in the constitution it
says the Koran is the source of legislation.”
But “Christians are less put aside [in Syria] than in other
Islamic countries, for example Saudi Arabia,” she said. “The
social fabric of Syria is very diverse, so Christians live in
The “Arab insurrection” under way in that country included
“sectarian factions which promote fundamentalist Islam, which is
not genuine Islam”, she said.
The majority of Muslims in Syria are moderate and open to other
cultural and interfaith elements, she said. “Wahhabism (a
fundamentalist branch of Islam) is not open,” she added.
Christians in Syria were “doubtful about the future if the
project to topple the regime succeeded”. The alternative was “a
religious sectarian state where all minorities would feel
threatened and discriminated against”, she said.
There was “a need to end the violence”, she said. “The West and
Gulf states must not give finance to armed insurrectionists who
are sectarian terrorists, most of whom are from al-Qaeda,
according to a report presented to the German parliament,” she
“We don’t want to be invaded, as in Aleppo, by mercenaries, some
of whom think they are fighting Israel. They bring terror,
destruction, fear and nobody protects the civilians,” she said.
There were “very few Syrians among the rebels”, she said.
“Mercenaries should go home,” she said.
What she and others sought in Syria was “reform, no violence, no
foreign intervention.” She hoped for “a new, third way, a new
social pact where the right to auto determination without
outside interference” would be respected.
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