Syria intensifies crackdown on anti-government protesters

By April 27, 2011

Syria (MNN) — The staccato of gunfire set the rhythm of Syria’s response during their fifth week of anti-government uprisings.

The popular revolt against President Bashar Assad was met with a relentless crackdown since mid-March.  More than 400 people have died across Syria, with 120 killed over the weekend. The severity of the attacks is being read as a pre-emptive action against any opposition to Assad, rather than reacting to demonstrations.

Terry Ascott with SAT-7 says early on, the country was in a cycle of reconciliation followed by violence. However, it seems to be entrenched in the violent phase of this latest schizophrenic turn of events.

“It seems the hardliners have won in the end, and any future demonstrations are going to be dealt with somewhat brutally.”

Rather than settling down, others are wading into the fray.

The United States and Britain are considering sanctions against the regime for its brutality. France and Italy have added their voices, asking Syria to end its aggression.

The unrest has the potential to explode in an “Armageddon,” according to Ascott. He goes on to note that “Syria, Iran and Hezbollah align somewhat, politically. What happens in one will get response from the other. So you can’t even treat a country like Syria as an isolated case because it has very strong connections to other countries and other interests.” Syria is bordered by Lebanon, Jordon, Turkey, Iraq and Israel.

When asked why the Syrian response to the protesters seems heavy handed, Ascott replied, “I think they’re cracking down because they don’t want to go the way of the Mubarak regime and end up with the Assad family and most of the other leadership there going into prison or on trial for what they’ve done in the past years.

“In other words, they’ve got nothing to lose by fighting to hold on to power, and they’ve got everything to lose by making concessions.”

SAT-7 is a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa. Along with a channel geared expressly for children, the team broadcasts on channels dedicated to the Farsi speakers, the Arabic speakers, and the Turkish speakers of the region. Ascott explains, “We are committed to a non-political engagement with the Arab society, trying to be ‘salt and light’ to the society to be agents of truth and to be messengers of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

However, with the crisis that has been assailing the Middle East and North Africa since February, “It is calling for people not to reply violence with violence. It is calling for forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s calling for peaceful coexistence and acceptance of the other.”

Specifically, the programs offered by SAT-7 are a response within a Christian worldview. The teams know it’s hard to be heard, but they won’t stop talking. “These are very critical at this time when there’s so much hatred and there’s so much call for revenge and so much uncertainty. We do have a voice of reconciliation in a very divided region,”says Ascott.

Keep praying. The hardest work is yet to be done. “It is a message that is best heard after the guns have fallen silent,” says Ascott. “These are difficult days, and we are asking Christians across the region to pray for authorities across the different countries as well as their own.”

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