The regime in Damascus has played on the anxieties of Christians and other religious minorities to consolidate its support base, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the strategy may not be durable.
“Some Christians have joined the ranks of the uprisings, and Christian intellectuals like Michel Kilo and Fayez Sara populate the ranks of opposition figures, The New York Times reports, citing evidence that Iraqi-style sectarian carnage will not necessarily result from Bashar al-Assad’s ouster:
An activist in Damascus recalled over coffee at the upscale Audi Lounge how a Christian friend found himself hiding in the house of a conservative Muslim family in a town on the outskirts of Damascus. His friend was marching in a demonstration, along with others. When security forces arrived at the scene shooting randomly at people, they ran for cover, hiding in the nearest houses and buildings, he said. When the tumult was over, his new host asked him what his name was. Scared, he thought for a moment about lying, but worried that they might ask for his identification papers he told the truth. To his surprise, the host and his family and all those hiding in the house began cheering for him. He had joined their ranks.
The formula often offered of the Syrian divide — religious minorities on Mr. Assad’s side, the Sunni Muslim majority aligned against him — has never captured the nuance of a struggle that may define Syria for generations. Even some Alawites, the Muslim sect from which Mr. Assad draws most of his leadership, had joined protesters. When a few came to the central Syrian city of Hama to join huge demonstrations in the summer, they were saluted by Sunni Muslims with songs and poetry.