Monday 11 June 2012

Jesuit in Syria: "I am leaving the country in the next few days, by decision of the Church"

Paolo Dall'Oglio, jesuíta italiano na Síria
Full transcript of interview with Paolo Dall'Oglio, italian jesuit in Syria. News item can be read here.

Transcrição completa da entrevista com Paolo Dall'Oglio, jesuita italiano na Síria. Leia a notícia aqui.

Are you optimistic about a solution to the crisis?
I was never optimistic! In January 2011 I said to an important ambassador in Damascus that I didn’t expect Syria to change quickly and relatively peacefully like Tunisia and Egypt.

Unfortunately, at that time, I was convinced that the risk of a civil war was a reality for Syria and there was a big need for a large international dialogue to facilitate the democratic transformation of Syria without falling into civil war.

Can a civil war be avoided?
We have been in a civil war since June 2011. I won’t say there is no revolution, there is a revolution and a civil war.

Is it between Sunnis and Alawites?
It is going this way, but this does not mean that all the Alawites are with the state nor that all the Sunnis are against the regime. But in the regions where the ethnic fight is ongoing, we cannot but recognize that there are two sides, one Alawite, one Sunni, sometimes with the help of some Christian villages.

What is the position of the Christians in Syria at the moment?
It is difficult to generalize; it is different from one region to the other. In big cities like Damascus and Aleppo the Christians are substantially neutral.

In the region where the confrontation is more immediate, between Alawites and Sunni, the Christians are in a very difficult situation, that is why they emigrate or they are obliged to side, in this case they usually side with the Alawites, but generally speaking the Christians remain neutral and as long as the civil war progresses, they will leave.

You were threatened to be expelled from Syria, then allowed to stay. You are obviously free to speak, what is your relation with the state?
I started to speak freely and loudly again once the state signed an agreement with the Arab League recognizing the right of opinion and expression. I have allowed myself to speak clearly, loudly, because the Syrian government has agreed that freedom of opinion should be implemented. But at the same time I am obliged to leave the country this week, because in fact this freedom of expression is not recognized. I will leave the country in the next few days, I am obliged by a decision of the church.

Padre Paolo no mosteiro de Deir Mar Musa
What has the position of the Church leaders been?
The church has always been used as an instrument to build the popular opinion upholding the State's priorities.

Is there a future for the current regime?
I am not interested in the future of the regime. I am very interested in the future of syria and the rights of Syrians.

And you believe it would be better for them if the regime would be replaced?
People have passed a point of no return. But I believe in national dialogue, not to keep any regime, but to have the largest consensus possible, because we need a Syria for all the Syrians.

Should the international community intervene?
I believe in international non-violent action. Read my letter to Kofi Annan. In it I asked for 3000 military observers and 30 000 civil society activists to work with the Syrian civil society to implement democracy.

Nevertheless there is sometimes the need for occasional limited operations, I call them police operations. In order to avoid terrorism or violence of whatever kind to spread in a country like ours.

The church believes in the right of self-defence. And so far there is a duty of solidarity with the people who are trying to defend themselves, to protect their rights. I believe in both cases, for those who are trying to defend their rights, and for those who are in solidarity with them, that non-violence is always better, but this does not mean giving up rights or giving up solidarity.

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