Patriarch Urges UN to Investigate Syrian War Crimes Specifically Against Christians
Patriarch Benyamin I Abboud, head of Unity Church, has submitted a request to the UN Security Council which asks for an investigation into Syrian war crimes against Christians. He classifies these violations not only as genocide, but also as forced kidnapping and disappearance, detainment, arbitrary detention, embezzlement, rape, human trafficking, as well as physical and psychological torture. The Patriarch has also survived an assassination attempt, saying that the price of documenting these war crimes was his blood. All sides of the war view Christians as easily expendable and exploitable, resulting in a level of persecution that Syrian Christians had not experienced before.
01/31/2018 Syria (Syria Direct) – Patriarch Benyamin I Abboud is optimistic. Born in Lebanon, the 57-year-old priest serves as head of the Unity Church, a union of Eastern rite denominations. The Church is currently advocating for the rights of Christians in Syria and other countries where Christians form minorities.
Abboud submitted a request earlier this month to the UN Security Council to open an investigation into war crimes against Syrian Christians, and to “establish a special court” for trying those crimes.
Among the rights abuses Abboud helps document are “kidnapping, forced disappearance and arbitrary detention” of Christians across Syria, he tells Syria Direct’s Ammar Hammou from Brussels, where the Unity Church is headquartered.
Abboud declined to say which exact parties he holds accountable for targeting Christian communities in Syria, though Christians have been jailed, killed or displaced by both the Syrian government and armed groups.
In Qaryatayn, one formerly mixed-religion town in Homs province that Syria Direct reported on last year, all Christians are gone after two Islamic State invasions and the kidnapping of the local priest and Christian residents. The town’s ancient St. Elian Monastery sits in ruins.
Qaryatayn is not alone. Abboud says thousands of Syria’s estimated 1.7 million Christians fled the country since the start of the war nearly seven years ago.
“My heart is squeezed in pain amid the policies that are making Christians depart,” Abboud says.
But despite the losses and human rights abuses Abboud wants to bring to justice, memories of prior coexistence give him hope that a post-war Syria can be home to all its religious groups.
“The first word will be ‘Syrian,’ no matter what someone’s religion is.”
Q: You recently requested the UN Secretary General open an international investigation into violations in Syria, especially against Christians. Could you talk more about those violations?
I’ve classified these violations as follows: kidnapping, forced disappearance, detainment, arbitrary detention, embezzlement, rape, slavery and sale of women and girls in public auctions, physical and psychological torture, and finally, genocide.
The goal of our request to the international judiciary is to establish a special court after the end of the investigations that we requested.
In the interest of preserving the confidentiality and the safety of those killed, and those who worked to document these crimes and violations mentioned above, the answer to the second part of your question will be left until after the international investigations.
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