My bachelors degree is in History from the University of Colorado. General history. I studied world history, American history, ancient history, any and all kinds of history. I took a class called -12th Century Europe – and loved it. I’ve always found it fascinating that we all acknowledge the adage “History repeats itself” and then we move ahead….and sure enough, it does.
Do you know that there is a small village just outside Damascus called Maaloula where the residents are all Christian and still speak ancient Aramaic – the language of Jesus. And this village is under attack as we speak – right smack in the middle of both sides. They’re trying to stay neutral, but because they are a Christian village, they get lumped in with the pro-government side which makes the rebels angry and so some have been killed – just because they are politically aligned with “Christians” and Assad. Make sense? Not really….
But it does say one thing – history matters!
The Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein was Sunni. But Iraq is mostly Shi’ite. And even though the Kurds were also Sunni – they were not Arab – so they didn’t like Saddam very much – particularly after he gassed them several times, killing tens of thousands (that’ll tend to make a group of people not like you). The way Saddam stayed in power was to encourage all the minority groups in Iraq to join his team – Team Baath. So the Christians – the Aramaic speaking ones, the Chaldeans, the Assyrians – and the Sabeans or Mandaeins, who are followers of John the Baptist. (I met some of these guys when I was in Iraq in 2001 – they wore robes with hoods over their faces and baptized themselves daily). And then there were the Arabic speaking Sunnis…. These all joined hands with Saddam to form a 40% strong minority – just enough to run the country. Saddam even married a Christian wife – nothing like solidifying a coalition like marrying into it. That’s what Assad has done. He has ruled through a secular Baath party alliance of minorities to control the majority. (Just more like 25% of the total though. A smaller minority than Saddam has had – which has probably led him to be even more brutal than Saddam was, in order to maintain control).
What the U.S. did in Iraq – possibly our biggest mistakes – was to disband the secular Baath party. Then we destroyed much the country’s infrastructure and humiliated anyone and everyone in positions of leadership.
In one of the most ironic of all my life’s weird incidences, I found myself in a room with U.S. Marine leaders and Iraqi leaders in April of 2003 listening to a National Guard Marine Colonel who had been a High School math teacher two weeks before, give a lecture to this group of Iraqi men about freedom and democracy and the evils of the Baath party. He then proceeded to ask questions about some of the details of the local utilities and no one would answer him – because only people in the Baath Party would even know those answers (they were all pretending they were not part of the Party).
Did you know that the oldest church building is found in Syria? It’s in a small village on the banks of the Euphrates River next to Iraq.
Did you know that the Apostle Paul met Jesus (literally) on the way to Damascus? And that the house of Ananias is still inside the old walls of that great city? And that there is still a Jewish Quarter in the old city – right on Straight Street.
Syrians are some of the most humble, good-natured of all Arabs. Chris and I have often noted that our Syrian friends are the easiest to talk with. They are Druze, Christian (about ten varieties), Shi’ite, Sunni and Alawite – but all Syrian. Hard working. Smiley and fun-loving. The Crusades were fought there. Christians conquered the Assyrians. Muslims conquered the Christians. Christian Crusaders re-conquered the Muslims….and on it went. Today, Muslims and Christians in Syria have typically lived in peaceful harmony.
Finally, most importantly to the history of this family – our son was born there. In the summer of 1994, the Medearis’s moved to Damascus for 2 months and had our son Jonathan. He was born one mile from Assad’s government palace. In a twist of political irony, Lebanon didn’t have a US Embassy because it was too dangerous, so we had to go to Syria to give birth to our son.
We love Syria. We love the Syrian people. They are a vibrant energetic wonderful collage of God-created human beings. And if we’re going to bomb them – any of them – we should at least know who “they” are. Otherwise we’re tempted to think that “those bad people” who are 7000 miles away (from Denver) aren’t really humans. Just like us. Who eat, breathe, love, get angry, want to reconcile – but don’t know how – and are created in the same image we all are – God’s. “They,” are in fact, “us.”
History matters! Because people matter!