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The US brands RT America a “foreign agent” while throwing out its own laws

The war on RT is a travesty of justice and it is one where childish ideology is being used to mask a genuine scandal of US corporations and the US government, working in tandem to enrich their own material interests. 

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The United States government has given RT America four days to register as a so-called “foreign agent” or else face consequence including a seizing of assets. The move comes on the one year anniversary of Donald Trump’s election victory over Hillary Clinton.

Before delving into the possible consequences. Here are the important facts:

1. RT does not stand accused of breaking a single US law.

2. RT America is legally registered as a company in the United States 

3. RT is entitled to the same First Amendment rights to freedom of speech (including the freedom to publish and broadcast) as any other entity operating in the United States

4. RT does not stand accused of favouritism in its election coverage 

5. RT’s social media ads are misleadingly described as “political advertisements”. This is a deeply dishonest description. A political advertisement is something that says “Vote for Donald Trump” or “Vote for Hillary Clinton”. Instead, RT’s advertisements simply said “Watch RT for coverage of the US presidential candidates”. In the end, RT placed more advertisement relating to coverage of Bernie Sanders than of Trump or Clinton. 

6. RT is partly funded by the Russian government, just as Al Jazeera is funded by Qatar, the BBC is funded by the UK, the CBC is funded by Canada and TeleSur is funded by Venezuela. There is nothing unusual about RT’s funding model. 

The consequences: 

Because the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) has rarely been used, it is not entirely clear what the US intends to do with RT America and its employees after the 13th of November, the time by which RT and its employees in the US will have to register as a “foreign agent”.

It is possible however to clarify the following myths

1. RT will cease operations and/or broadcasting in the United States–FALSE 

Registering as a foreign agent does not mean that one has to cease one’s business activities so long as they are otherwise legal as RT’s are. RT isn’t for example a weapons trading business, it is a news outlet.

In the US today, upwards of 1,700 lobbyists have to register under FARA and most of these people are not only living peacefully but ranking in a great deal of money.

2. RT America employees may be intimidated and cease working for RT of their own accord–Likely

Because of the intimidating sounding name of the legislation invoked to provoke RT, some Americans working for RT may voluntarily leave the company rather than register for FARA.

I personally think that such roles can be fairly readily filled with other individuals as RT remains popular among American viewers as well as among aspiring journalists.

3. RT America will lose its assets–FALSE

So long as RT’s registration is completed on time, then no assets will be stripped according to FARA.

4. RT will challenge the ruling in a US court–LIKELY 

After the 13th, RT can and almost certainly will use the US court system to challenging the decision of the government. There is a great deal of precedent in RT’s favour.

5. Russia will force US media outlets in Russia to register on a similar database–LIKELY 

Russia has stated that whatever steps are taken against RT in the US, will be replicated by Russia in respect of US outlets in cities like Moscow including CNN.

The real danger:

The real danger in forcing RT America to register as a ‘foreign agent’ is that it could merely be a prelude to further actions taken to shut RT America down. Shutting down a media company operating the US based on the content it produces is very difficult, even when explicit pornography is involved. There are no peace time precedents for such a thing and few even in war time. For those who need reminding, the US and Russia are not in a state of war, they are simply going through a rough time diplomatically, all of which is due to conspiracy theories peddling by US politicians and the US mainstream media.

Still though, if the US is this intent on tarnishing its own First Amendment, there is no telling how many more US laws the government is willing to fault to make a point.

The war on RT is a travesty of justice and it is one where childish ideology is being used to mask a genuine scandal of US corporations and the US government, working in tandem to enrich their own material interests.

As I previously wrote:

News producers, like authors, musicians, painters, photographers and other people in creative or current events trades, often do not take into account how the technology used to convey one’s content, often dictates the very nature of the context itself.

Consider how the invention of magnetic tape recording created a boom in the sales of symphonic music, because the supreme fidelity of such tapes allowed a more accurate recreation of the sound of a live concert vis-a-vis previous formats, which were rendered instantly obsolete. Consider how the advent of television led to film makers changing the way films were made, forcing studios, directors and producers to offer new enticements to people including more visually and sonically impact stimuli in the cinema.

It was the invention of increasingly inexpensive and portable video-tape records as well as broadcast satellites that led to a revolution in how people consumed the news. The age of printed papers and news reels which needed to be filmed, developed and then physically distributed, were at once made obsolete by the ability to broadcast sound and picture from multiple parts of the globe, all at one time.

Not only did the LP record become instantly popular, but it led to the 33 and 1/3 rpm record giving birth to a new style of music which was conceptually composed to fit the length of a double-sided LP as a complete piece with a beginning middle and end, complete with the short intermission that it required to flip the record. Of course the CD made that ‘intermission’ obsolete and today, digital streaming means that even having a physic disc is considered an inconvenience to many.

Just as the videotape and satellite made news more instant, social media networks have made the delivery of information all the more immediate.

However, beyond the ‘rush to immediacy’ that new technologies bring to any form of content, the internet and social media networks have made it so that one can get a written, audio or video message out to a wider public at a fraction of the expensive that it used to incur. 4G and Wifi is the satellite for ‘every-man’ while social media has allowed outlets to attain substantial audience proliferation at a fraction of the costs of old fashioned marketing campaigns.

This is why the elites who have their economic lives and in the case of politicians, the economic lives of their political donors, invested highly in the past, are attacking the content of future minded media outlets. Among the most successful such outlets are RT and Sputnik. Because of this, both RT and Sputnik  have now been banned from advertising their content on Twitter.

Of course, among the political elites of the west, there is a clear anti-Russian agenda with an accompanying snobbish attitude towards the very contemporary style of RT and Sputnik. But what it really comes down to is money. Ironically, the problem that western governments have with RT and Sputnik is the problem they have with an unregulated marketplace. So much for RT and Sputnik being ‘Soviet’ as is often alleged. In actual fact, they are the opposite: they are efficient business models in a competitive capitalist environment.

Competitions for ratings effect both state owned and fully privately owned broadcasters. This is why the BBC for example continues to sell and licence its products throughout the world. It is also why Al Jazeera America closed down. All the handsome funding from the Qatari state, could not help dig Al Jazeera America out of its low-ratings money hole. While state funded, Qatar wasn’t running Al Jazeera America as a charity.

RT and Sputnik, as partly state funded operations have broken the mould both in style, substance, efficiency and market proliferation. They have done so without maintain huge marketing budgets by any contemporary industry standard. In doing so, RT and Sputnik have challenged the old MSM monopoly. The fact that the old MSM monopoly refuses to accept the arrival of RT and Sputnik is the primary reason why they are being attacked on social media.

While RT and Sputnik’s content remains as popular as ever, the very nature of social media is changing before our eyes. The Twitter attacks on RT and Sputnik are just one very prominent symptom of this.

Days before Twitter pulled the plug on RT and Sputnik’s right to advertise, Facebook quietly rolled out a programme whereby media companies would be forced to pay advertising costs in order for their content to be seen on Facebook. So-called ‘organic reach’, the phenomenon of people seeing and then sharing a story from a media outlet is effectively quashed under the new programme that has already been rolled out in several global markets.

When taken in totality, the big social media networks want small independent outlets to be forced to pay for views while large, however nimble outlets like RT and Sputnik will be forbidden to do so. The logical conclusion is that only MSM outlets with big budgets, whose ethos does not threaten the old status quo, will be able to easily spread their content over social media networks.

The only solution is for alternative media outlets of all sizes to form an alternative distribution system to existing social media networks. Finding replacements for the current social media network monopoly has long been a pressing issue, given how censorship of free speech is now de rigueur among the owners of the means of social media production.

The following are some suggestions for a way forward: 

1. “Friends lists personal property of the individual”

In most countries, phone companies used to have an unfair advantage over customers insofar as phone numbers were the property of the telecom company. While this is still the case in some places, in many others, it is now possible and relatively easy to transfer ones phone number and contacts between phone companies as a legal right.

The same should be true for social media ‘friends lists’. If one could easily transfer one’s list of contacts between social media networks with the same ease as switching phone numbers, there will be far less reluctance to ‘relocate’ the core of one’s social media networking activities.

Pressure was put on reluctant phone companies to offer this to their ex-customers and the same must be done for social media operations in respect of friends lists.

2. Regulate existing social media networks in the style of telecom bodies 

As I previously proposed and now restate:

“It is widely known that Facebook and Twitter can temporarily or permanently ban users for the most arbitrary, foolish and immoral reasons. When called up on their use of their trigger-happy ban button, they simply say that ‘they are a private corporation’ and can therefore do as they wish. Whilst they are a private corporation, so are the telecom companies in many countries.

It is virtually unheard of for a phone or internet provider to ban a customer because of the content of his or her phone conversations or emails or even the photos and videos one can now keep in a cloud storage system.

This applies to conference calls, emails with multiple recipients, etc.

Facebook, Twitter and others should not act differently. Social media is, if you will, a conference call with a wider audience; an email sent to multiple people. Some people elect to privilege and restrict their communications and others can make it fully public. If someone doesn’t like what is being said they can personally block a user just, as one can hang up a phone during an unwanted conversation. It’s just that simple.

 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others are telecom tools of the modern age, just as the landline was in the 20th century and mobile phones were after they became common in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Governments should force social media companies to refrain from any sort of censorship or removal of users in all instances except when criminal activity is suspected. Anything criminal such as plotting an act of terrorism or preying on children is all ready a criminal offence and it should be dealt with by police and not any private sector organisations, including Facebook middle management. Expressing views, even hateful views is not a crime. It is quite the opposite, it is protected by free speech laws. If someone is offended they can simply not look at the content, just as when one sees a unseemly vagabond on the street, they in many cases,  elect to cross the road.

Not only are Facebook and Twitter using their power as giant corporations to restrict personal liberty in line with a globalist liberal agenda, they are actually putting lives at risk. Government ought to step in to protect free speech from private sector censorship. Social media is not an ordinary product whose sale can be restricted by its lawful owner, it is a conduit of communications that is now a vial part of daily life. Unlike a small business owner who ought to have the right to refuse service in all but the most exceptional cases (such as race discrimination), Facebook and Twitter should be legally restricted in their arbitrary censorship measures because of the negative effect this has on society and personal liberty.

Social media is now the first line of defence against terrorism. Before mainstream media cameras can get on site, it is social media users who are sharing information about terrorist attacks, alerting others to either avoid the area or send for help. It is also a lifeline for loved ones to communicate with one another during times of crisis, as well as a way to let others know that one is safe in the event of a terrorist atrocity or natural disaster”.

http://theduran.wpengine.com/social-media-censorship-puts-lives-at-risk/

However, in spite of the concerns for personal safety, personal privacy and personal liberty, because of the nature of the media-industrial complex, it is very unlikely that these healthy regulations will come into place at this time. This however, is all the more reason to vocally make this argument.

3. Big broadcasters should start their own social media networks 

In the race to create new viable social media networks, considerable budgets, proven track records and brand recognition are invaluable. Here, RT, Sputnik and many other broadcasters could start their own social networks geared towards people with certain attitudes, but where all are welcome to freely share both profound ideas and typical updates on daily life.

With Facebook and Twitter conducting an ideological war on behalf of their fellow corporations, it is becoming increasingly necessary for those who are shut out of ‘old’ social media to find a new home. Ideally, this new home would not resort to censoring anyone.

RT’s motto of ‘question more’ is a good fit for social media. It could even be that RT could partner with Russian social media giant VK to create a platform whose reach is beyond VK’s target Russian speaking demographic to something that is fully multi-lingual and international.

If the corporate social media owners want to shut out “competition”, the best way to have the last laugh is to show them that they are only shutting out their own existing and potential client base.

If this base shrinks to people who only watch CNN and other MSM outlets, Facebook will lose advertising revenue for the same reason that a a lone undertaker would not need to spend much on advertising his services in a town with a large ageing population.

If RT and Sputnik want to not only preserve but increase the reach of their content, the next frontier is doing to social media networks what was already done to traditional TV and radio broadcasters.

CONCLUSION:

In the 1960s, new record labels in countries like the US, challenged the record producing monopoly of the old major labels. Likewise, in the 1980s, cable television challenged the primacy of the major 3 networks of the US.

Now is the time to challenge the old social media networks in the same way. The incentive is there, the audience is waiting and the potential gains are far greater than the potential risks.

In doing so, content creators will be able to rally behind a new means of distribution that will preserve and expand the reach of their work. The only losers are those who think less content means more market share. Those who censor, are those who are reducing their own business potential in the long term.

This is the real scandal and it is one that is hidden in plain view.

‘Twitter versus RT’ will either kill alternative media or social media networks

 

 

 

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The ‘Gilets Jaunes’ Are Unstoppable: “Now, The Elites Are Afraid”

Now the elites are afraid. For the first time, there is a movement which cannot be controlled through the normal political mechanisms.

The Duran

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Authored by Christophe Guilluy via Spiked-Online.com:


The gilets jaunes (yellow vest) movement has rattled the French establishment. For several months, crowds ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands have been taking to the streets every weekend across the whole of France. They have had enormous success, extracting major concessions from the government. They continue to march.

Back in 2014, geographer Christopher Guilluy’s study of la France périphérique (peripheral France) caused a media sensation. It drew attention to the economic, cultural and political exclusion of the working classes, most of whom now live outside the major cities. It highlighted the conditions that would later give rise to the yellow-vest phenomenon. Guilluy has developed on these themes in his recent books, No Society and The Twilight of the Elite: Prosperity, the Periphery and the Future of Francespiked caught up with Guilluy to get his view on the causes and consequences of the yellow-vest movement.

spiked: What exactly do you mean by ‘peripheral France’?

Christophe Guilluy: ‘Peripheral France’ is about the geographic distribution of the working classes across France. Fifteen years ago, I noticed that the majority of working-class people actually live very far away from the major globalised cities – far from Paris, Lyon and Toulouse, and also very far from London and New York.

Technically, our globalised economic model performs well. It produces a lot of wealth. But it doesn’t need the majority of the population to function. It has no real need for the manual workers, labourers and even small-business owners outside of the big cities. Paris creates enough wealth for the whole of France, and London does the same in Britain. But you cannot build a society around this. The gilets jaunes is a revolt of the working classes who live in these places.

They tend to be people in work, but who don’t earn very much, between 1000€ and 2000€ per month. Some of them are very poor if they are unemployed. Others were once middle-class. What they all have in common is that they live in areas where there is hardly any work left. They know that even if they have a job today, they could lose it tomorrow and they won’t find anything else.

spiked: What is the role of culture in the yellow-vest movement?

Guilluy: Not only does peripheral France fare badly in the modern economy, it is also culturally misunderstood by the elite. The yellow-vest movement is a truly 21st-century movement in that it is cultural as well as political. Cultural validation is extremely important in our era.

One illustration of this cultural divide is that most modern, progressive social movements and protests are quickly endorsed by celebrities, actors, the media and the intellectuals. But none of them approve of the gilets jaunes. Their emergence has caused a kind of psychological shock to the cultural establishment. It is exactly the same shock that the British elites experienced with the Brexit vote and that they are still experiencing now, three years later.

The Brexit vote had a lot to do with culture, too, I think. It was more than just the question of leaving the EU. Many voters wanted to remind the political class that they exist. That’s what French people are using the gilets jaunes for – to say we exist. We are seeing the same phenomenon in populist revolts across the world.

spiked: How have the working-classes come to be excluded?

Guilluy: All the growth and dynamism is in the major cities, but people cannot just move there. The cities are inaccessible, particularly thanks to mounting housing costs. The big cities today are like medieval citadels. It is like we are going back to the city-states of the Middle Ages. Funnily enough, Paris is going to start charging people for entry, just like the excise duties you used to have to pay to enter a town in the Middle Ages.

The cities themselves have become very unequal, too. The Parisian economy needs executives and qualified professionals. It also needs workers, predominantly immigrants, for the construction industry and catering et cetera. Business relies on this very specific demographic mix. The problem is that ‘the people’ outside of this still exist. In fact, ‘Peripheral France’ actually encompasses the majority of French people.

spiked: What role has the liberal metropolitan elite played in this?

Guilluy: We have a new bourgeoisie, but because they are very cool and progressive, it creates the impression that there is no class conflict anymore. It is really difficult to oppose the hipsters when they say they care about the poor and about minorities.

But actually, they are very much complicit in relegating the working classes to the sidelines. Not only do they benefit enormously from the globalised economy, but they have also produced a dominant cultural discourse which ostracises working-class people. Think of the ‘deplorables’ evoked by Hillary Clinton. There is a similar view of the working class in France and Britain. They are looked upon as if they are some kind of Amazonian tribe. The problem for the elites is that it is a very big tribe.

The middle-class reaction to the yellow vests has been telling. Immediately, the protesters were denounced as xenophobes, anti-Semites and homophobes. The elites present themselves as anti-fascist and anti-racist but this is merely a way of defending their class interests. It is the only argument they can muster to defend their status, but it is not working anymore.

Now the elites are afraid. For the first time, there is a movement which cannot be controlled through the normal political mechanisms. The gilets jaunes didn’t emerge from the trade unions or the political parties. It cannot be stopped. There is no ‘off’ button. Either the intelligentsia will be forced to properly acknowledge the existence of these people, or they will have to opt for a kind of soft totalitarianism.

A lot has been made of the fact that the yellow vests’ demands vary a great deal. But above all, it’s a demand for democracy. Fundamentally, they are democrats – they want to be taken seriously and they want to be integrated into the economic order.

spiked: How can we begin to address these demands?

Guilluy: First of all, the bourgeoisie needs a cultural revolution, particularly in universities and in the media. They need to stop insulting the working class, to stop thinking of all the gilets jaunes as imbeciles.

Cultural respect is fundamental: there will be no economic or political integration until there is cultural integration. Then, of course, we need to think differently about the economy. That means dispensing with neoliberal dogma. We need to think beyond Paris, London and New York.

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US Blunders Have Made Russia The Global Trade Pivot

Even if Europe is somehow taken out of the trade equation, greater synergy between the RIC (Russia, India and China) nations may be enough to pull their nations through anticipated global volatilities ahead

The Duran

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Authored by Mathew Maavak via ActivistPost.com:


The year 2019 had barely begun before news emerged that six Russian sailors were kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Benin. It was perhaps a foretaste of risks to come. As nations reel from deteriorating economic conditions, instances of piracy and other forms of supply chain disruptions are bound to increase.

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), 107 cases of piracy were noted during the first half of 2018 vis-à-vis 87 throughout 2017.  The 2018 tally included 32 cases in Southeast Asian waters and 48 along African shores – representing 75% of the total. To put this figure into perspective, Asian behemoths India and China – despite their vast shorelines – recorded only 2 cases of piracy each during the study period. Russia had none. In terms of hostages taken, the IMB tally read 102 in H1 2018 vs 63 in H1 2017.

Piracy adds to shipping and retail costs worldwide as security, insurance and salaries are hiked to match associated risks in maritime transport. Merchant vessels will also take longer and costlier routes to avoid piracy hotspots.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report in 2016 sums up the perils ahead:

As over 90% of global trade is carried out by sea, the economic effects of maritime crime can be crippling. Maritime crime includes not only criminal activity directed at vessels or maritime structures, but also the use of the high seas to perpetrate transnational organized crimes such as smuggling of persons or illicit substances.  These forms of maritime crime can have devastating human consequences.

Indeed, cases of human trafficking, organ harvesting, and the smuggling of illicit substances and counterfeit goods are proliferating worldwide in tandem with rising systemic debt and suspect international agendas.

Australia offers a case in point. While it fantasizes over a Quad of allies in the Indo-Pacific – to “save Asians from China” – criminal elements from Hong Kong, Malaysia to squeaky-clean Singapore have been routinely trafficking drugs, tobacco and people right into Sydney harbour for years,  swelling the local organised crime economy to as much as $47.4 billion (Australian dollars presumably) between 2016 and 2017.

With criminal elements expected to thrive during a severe recession, they will likely enjoy a degree of prosecutorial shielding from state actors and local politicians. But this is not a Southeast Asian problem alone; any superpower wishing to disrupt Asia-Europe trade arteries – the main engine of global growth – will have targets of opportunity across oceans and lands.  The US-led war against Syria had not only cratered one potential trans-Eurasia energy and trade node, it served as a boon for child traffickingorgan harvesting and slavery as well. Yet, it is President Bashar al-Assad who is repeatedly labelled a “butcher” by the Anglo-American media.

Ultimately, industries in Asia and Europe will seek safer transit routes for their products. The inference here is inevitable: the greatest logistical undertaking in history – China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – will be highly dependent on Russian security umbrella, particularly in Central Asia. Russia also offers an alternative transit option via the Northern Sea Route, thereby avoiding any potential pan-Turkic ructions in Central Asia in the future.

Russo- and Sinophobia explained?

In retrospect, Washington’s reckless policies post-Sept 11 2001 seem aimed at disrupting growing synergies between Asia and Europe. This hypothesis helps explain the relentless US-led agitprops against Russia, China and Iran.

When the gilet jaunes (yellow vest) protests rocked France weeks ago, it was only a matter of time before some pundits blamed it on Russia. US President Donald J. Trump cheered on; just as “billionaire activist” George Soros celebrated the refugee invasion of Europe and the Arab Spring earlier.  If the yellow vest contagion spreads to the Western half of Europe, its economies will flounder. Cui bono? A Russia that can reap benefits from the two-way BRI or Arctic trade routes or a moribund United States that can no longer rule roost in an increasingly multipolar world?

Trump’s diplomatic downgrade of the European Union and his opposition to the Nord Stream 2gas pipeline matches this trade-disruption hypothesis, as do pressures applied on India and China to drop energy and trade ties with Iran.  Washington’s trade war with Beijing and recent charges against Huawei – arguably Asia’s most valuable company – seem to fit this grand strategy.

If China concedes to importing more US products, Europe will bear the consequences. Asians love European products ranging from German cars to Italian shoes and Europe remains the favourite vacation destination for its growing middle class. Eastern European products and institutions are also beginning to gain traction in Asia. However, these emerging economies will suffer if their leaders cave in to Washington’s bogeyman fetish.

Even if Europe is somehow taken out of the trade equation, greater synergy between the RIC (Russia, India and China) nations may be enough – at least theoretically – to pull their nations through anticipated global volatilities ahead.

In the meantime, as the US-led world crumbles, it looks like Russia is patiently biding its time to become the security guarantor and kingmaker of Asia-Europe trade.  A possible state of affairs wrought more by American inanity rather than Russian ingenuity…

Dr Mathew Maavak is a regular commentator on risk-related geostrategic issues.

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Historic Eastern Christianity: An Uncertain Future

The survival of historic Eastern Christianity, particularly in Syria, is critical for several reasons.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Elias Samo via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The survival of historic Eastern Christianity has never been as urgent as it is today. Christianity saw its beginning in Greater Syria which was subdivided by France and Britain after WWI into modern day Syria, Lebanon, Palestian/Israel and Jordan. The land that housed, nurtured and spread the teachings of Jesus Christ for over two millenniums, now threatens children of that faith. The survival of historic Eastern Christianity, particularly in Syria, is critical for several reasons:

  1. Greater Syria is the homeland of Jesus and Christianity. Abraham was from modern day Iraq, Moses from Egypt, and Muhammad from Mecca; Jesus was from Syria.
  1. Paul converted to Christianity and saw the light while walking through ‘The Street Called Straight’ in Damascus.
  1. Jesus’ followers were called Christians for the first time in Antioch, formerly part of Syria.
  1. One of the earliest churches, perhaps the earliest, is in Syria.

The potential demise of historic Eastern Christianity is reflected in the key question Christians ask: should we stay or emigrate? The urgent question – in the face of the ongoing regional turmoil – precipitated with the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and escalated since the Arab uprisings in 2011. Historic Eastern Christians’ fears were further magnified when Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Archbishop Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church, both of metropolitan Aleppo, were kidnapped on April, 22, 2013; with no traces of their whereabouts, dead or alive, since. For many years, I was deputy, friend, and advisor to the Archbishop Ibrahim, which provided me an opportunity to meet many Christians. I have, over time, noticed the change in their sentiment, with more considering emigration after the uprising and the kidnapping of the two Archbishops. Historic Eastern Christians survived the Ottoman Genocide in 1915 and thereafter; they multiplied and thrived in the Fertile Crescent despite some atrocities until the start of the misnamed “Arab Spring” in early 2011. Prior to the “Arab Spring”, historic Eastern Christians were victims of violence on several occasions. In the mid-1930s, the historic Assyrian community in Iraq suffered violent onslaughts and were driven to Syria. In the 1970s and 1980s, during the Lebanese Civil War, Christians were victims of sectarian violence. During the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Christians were victims of widespread sectarian violence which led to mass migration. The “Arab Spring” began with great hope for the right of the people to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. However, it was swiftly hijacked by Islamists and Salafists and turned into an “Islamic Spring, an Arab Fall and a Christian Winter”; bringing along with it a new massacre of Christians. Presently, Eastern Christianity is at the mercy of clear and identifiable domestic, regional, and international, historic and contemporary conflicts in the Fertile Crescent, namely:

  1. Jihad vs. Ijtihad: A long standing conflict amongst Muslims between the sword vs. the pen.
  2. Sunni vs. Shiite: A conflict which began following the death of the Prophet Muhammad.
  3. Arabism vs. Islamism: The former has territorial limitations, the later has no territorial limitations.
  4. Syria vs. Israel: It is an essential component of the Palestinian problem, not the presumed Arab- Israeli conflict.
  5. West vs. East: A throwback to the Cold War, or its revival.
  6. Historic Persian, Ottoman and Arab Empires animosities: Each seeking regional hegemony.

One is reminded of the proverbial saying, “When the elephants fight, the grass suffers.” Certainly, Eastern Christianity is suffering and threatened with extinction.

Syria was a model of religious tolerance, common living and peaceful interaction amongst its religious, sectarian, cultural and ethnic components. Seven years of turmoil, in which various international and regional powers manipulated segments of Syrian society by supplying them with an abundance of weapons, money and sectarian ideologies, has heightened Eastern Christians’ fears. During the seven-year turmoil in Syria, the entire society has suffered; Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Yazidis, Kurds, Christians and others. Christians, being a weak and peaceful component of the society, have suffered immensely. Ma’aloula; a religious treasure for Christians globally, and the only city in the world where Aramaic – the language of Jesus Christ – is spoken, was attacked and besieged by ISIS. Numerous historic Churches were damaged, and many destroyed. Christians in Raqqa were forced by ISIS into one of three options: 1. Pay a penalty in pure gold – known as a ‘Jizya’ to keep their life and practice their faith – albeit in secret only; 2. Convert into Islam; or 3. Face immediate death. To top their pain, the kidnap of the two prominent Archbishops meant no Eastern Christian believer was safe.

Amidst all the doom and gloom, however, there remains hope. The survival of Christianity depends on the actions and reactions of three parties:

Eastern Christians: During the last hundred years, 1915-2015, since the Ottoman Genocide, Eastern Christians have been victims of a history of massacres, which meant that every Eastern Christian was a martyr, a potential martyr or a witness of martyrdom; if you fool me once, shame on you, if you fool me twice, shame on me. The ongoing regional turmoil has heightened their sense of insecurity. The answer to an age-old question Eastern Christians had on their mind: To flee Westwards or remain in their land, in the face of death, is increasingly becoming the former.

Eastern Muslims: There is a difference in perceptions between Eastern Christians and mainstream Muslims regarding the massacres committed against Christians. When certain violent groups or individuals kill Christians, while shouting a traditional Islamic profession: “No God but one God and Muhammad is God’s messenger”, it is reasonable for Christians to assume the killers are Muslims. However, for mainstream Muslims, the killers do not represent Islam; they are extremists, violating basic Islamic norms such as Muhammad’s sayings, “Whoever hurts a Thummy – Christian or Jew – has hurt me”, “no compulsion in religion” and other Islamic norms regarding just treatment of people of the Book; Christians and Jews. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Muslim elites to impress upon their fellow Muslims that:

a. The three monotheistic religions believe in one God and all ‘faithfuls’ are equal in citizenship, rights and duties.

b. Christians participated in the rise of Arab Islamic civilization. They were pioneers in the modern Arab renaissance and they joined their Muslim brethren in resisting the Crusades, the Ottomans and Western colonialism.

c. Christians are natives of the land and they provide cultural, religious, educational, and economic, diversity.

d. Christians are a positive link between the Muslims and the Christian West, particularly in view of the rise of Islamophobia. Massacres of Christians and their migration provide a pretext for the further precipitation of Islamophobia.

e. Civilization is measured by the way it treats its minorities.

The Christian West: The Crusades, Western colonialism, creation and continued support of Israel, support of authoritarian Arab political systems, military interventions, regime change, and the destabilization of Arab states made Muslims view Eastern Christians ‘guilty by association’. The Christian West helped Jews come to Palestine to establish Israel. Shouldn’t the same Christian West also help Eastern Christians remain in their homeland, rather than facilitate their emigration? Western Christians, particularly Christian Zionists, believe that the existence of Israel is necessary for the return of Jesus to his homeland. However, it would be a great disappointment for Jesus to return to his homeland, Syria and not find any of his followers.

Prior to 2011, Eastern Christian religious leaders were encouraging Syrian Christians in the diaspora to return to Syria, their homeland, where life was safe and secure with great potential. Now, the same leaders are desperately trying to slow down Christian emigration. Eastern Christians’ loud cries for help to remain are blowing in the wind.

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