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PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS/ "We are being chased out of the Middle East: why are they afraid of us?"

BACHAR AUBER is a Syrian Orthodox Christian who wants to stay in his country, despite the ongoing persecution against Christians. In an interview, here is what he told ilsussisidiario.net

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Bachar Auber is a tour guide. He is a Syrian Orthodox Christian and his family is originally from Maalula, one of the martyred cities, struck and devastated by fundamentalist Islamic hate. "I do not know why they hate us so much, I don't know why they want to expel all Christians from Syria and the Middle East," he told ilsussidiario.net. Bashar cheated miraculously death some months ago when a mortar shell killed seven around him and now he talks like a flooding river: the betrayal of Western countries who have supported the Islamic militias; the 400,000 Christians who have already fled the country; a world where different religions live together in peace. This no longer exists. "I will never leave Syria," he says, "in spite of all this it is my country and I will stay here until the end. You have no idea how many Christians have been brought back to the church these last two years: this is our only hope, we pray night and day so that peace returns to Syria."

Bachar, you are originally from Maalula: do you still have relatives there?

There is no one left in Maalula, they were all forced to flee. The city has been devastated by those criminals who belong to Al Qaeda: they have destroyed and plundered churches and convents, they abducted the nuns of the convent of Santa Tecla, they have terrorized all the citizens. They have also plundered our churches and convents, stealing our most precious and ancient icons.

A bleak picture. Maalula is a city of ancient Orthodox tradition?

Many Catholics also lived there, of the Byzantine rite. And of course also Muslims; we all lived in harmony before the war.

What reasons can you give for why Syria has become like this today?

We are faced with a well-rehearsed plan, to force Christians to leave Syria as has already happened in Iraq. It is not only Maalula, but many towns and villages have been devastated and the people forced to flee. And the Christians who remain have been forced to convert to Islam, and the women to wear Islamic clothing like the burqa. There are already 400,000 Christians who have left Syria out of a total of one million, a third of them.

Do you feel abandoned by the West?

The United States was ready to go to war on the side of the revolutionaries. As a Christian, I have never had confidence in the West, which just follows its interests. Italy is my second country, but it has disappointed me so much, it does whatever France and England tell it to do. I'm not pro-government, I belong to the opposition party of Assad, but we want to resolve the situation in a peaceful way. The first revolution was overtaken by Al Qaeda and financed by Saudi Arabia. That country is the greatest evil in the world, not only for Syria, but for everyone.