There isn’t much left of Syria today. The destruction to infrastructure is estimated in the billions, the economy has collapsed, and their currency has no value. The devastation to human life extends far beyond material items. Unfortunately both the Regime and Free Syrian Army have participated in the destruction of the Syrian people.
Assad has ruled well as an evil dictator hell bent on destroying any human life standing in the path of his missiles or army. Over 100,000 people have died in this civil war. His Air Force has indiscriminately bombed many civilian neighborhoods, and even used chemical weapons on towns full of women and children.
Today an estimated 140,000 Syrians remain in “prisons” that are eerily similar to Nazi concentration camps. People accused of being “anti-Assad” are captured, tortured, and held against their will with no contact to the outside world.
The Free Syrian Army stands as the resistance against Assad, but not necessarily for the Syrian people. The FSA is not structured as a traditional military, with strong top down leadership, and aligned ideologies. The FSA is made up of militias who are similar to “subcontractors.” They raise their own money for weapons, recruit their own fighters and finance their own operations. The FSA leadership works to coordinate these militia groups to take new cities and protect others currently under FSA control.
Ideologies vary widely between militias with some such as Al Qaeda or ISIS being pure Jihadists. These tend to be the best trained and most powerful militias within the FSA, but the collateral damage to civilians is severe. Because these militias fund their own operations, they have the ability to act autonomously from FSA leadership, imposing their will on Syrian civilians in the towns they overtake.
While interviewing Syrian refugees in Northern Iraq we learned many had suffered war crimes at the hands of the FSA. Many refugees attested to the facts that as the FSA “liberated” a community, the following atrocities occurred. Homes were robbed to finance their ongoing operations. Women were abducted and raped. Children were kidnapped and held for ransom. There is no liberty in trading an evil dictator for an oppressive militia.
In this tragic civil war, there seems to be none fighting for the freedom of the Syrian people. This is a civil war fought for power and control of a territory. While we sit on our collective sofa and read articles on our iPads, both sides continue to perform war crimes on a daily basis against the very civilians that they should be fighting to defend.
We should be reminded of the charge that God gives to all Christians:
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice. (Proverbs 31:8, 9 NLT)
It is time for the church as a whole to take responsibility for the care, protection and liberation of the Syrian people. We cannot sit idly by as innocent people suffer and die. We can be a voice for their oppression. We can support efforts to provide humanitarian assistance. We can pray for the intervention of The Lord.