Warring Syrian factions stop fighting on Eid to make way for world’s largest statue of Jesus
Here’s a development that should confound American diplomats and counterterrorism strategists: Warring factions in Syria stopped fighting for three days so that the world’s largest statue of Jesus Christ could be moved from Armenia to a Syrian mountaintop.
During the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha.
Along an ancient Christian pilgrimage route from Constantinople to Jerusalem.
Visible in Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestinian territory.
The Jesus statue is said to be taller than the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
It went up without a hitch.
Will this confound US counterterrorism wisdom?
Conventional American counterterrorism wisdom pretends that terrorism and extremism aren’t really religious in nature.
Or if they are religious, that same wisdom demands that we products of Christian civilization should simply roll over and avoid giving offense to those who are so easily offended.
So how is it that (U.S.-backed) Islamic extremist factions won’t defend their honor on the holy day of Eid, and instead stop fighting so that a (Russian-backed) group can erect the world’s biggest statue of Jesus on a centuries-old Christian pilgrimage route from Constantinople to Jerusalem?
Could unabashedly religious people know something that we shamelessly secular Americans might not?
Something we Americans need to think hard about
The construction of this statue in the Syrian city of Saidnaya is a major development.
Designed by a Moscow native, funded by a British-based foundation, cast in Armenia, and backed by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Russian regime of Vladimir Putin, the statue is everything that conventional American counterterrorism experts warn against.
It’s a huge, in-your-face, shameless exhibition of the Christian faith in one of the world’s most historically violent regions.
By American standards, that would be bad.
Yet Muslim, Christian, Ba’athist and nationalist factions stopped fighting for three days last week – during Eid – so that the statue could be trundled from its foundry in Armenia, into Syria, and up to the summit of the tallest mountain near the 5th century Christian Monastery of the Cherubim.
This year, Eid occurred on October 14, an Orthodox Christian feast day honoring Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Orthodox feast day is called the Protection of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.
Yet while the Orthodox Christians maintained a spirit of respect and fraternity toward Muslims during the statue’s installation, they did not cower or apologize or submit before them.
Indeed, they stuck firmly to their traditional words, names and beliefs. They didn’t act as dhimmis.
And they didn’t Arabize things, either. Russian, Armenian and Orthodox news services referenced Eid by its Turkish name, Kurban bayram.
Might Russia have influence over Islamist extremists that the US lacks?
Indeed, the Russians, Armenians, and adherents to the Orthodox Christian faith remained supremely confident.
This stands in major contrast to Americans, particularly government officials, who tend to apologize and submit.
One wonders the degree of influence Moscow has over Islamist extremists – not merely the Shi’a of the Hezbollah tendency, who are backed by Russia’s client state Syria in addition to Iran, but among the Sunni extremists receiving direct and indirect support from the United States and some of its allies.
Russian, Armenian and other official news agencies unabashedly refer to the site as a byway of the ancient “pilgrimage route from Constantinople to Jerusalem,” using the Christian name of the city that the Ottoman Turks re-named Istanbul. (The more politically correct Eurasianet referred to ancient Constantinople by its newer Islamic name.)
Permanently in place on the mountaintop, 2.1 kilometers above sea level, the bronze statue of Jesus Christ can be seen not only in Syria, but in Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Palestinian territory.
“During the three days, when the works were under way, the warring parties suspended military operations in the area and watched the installation of the sculpture, which was called ‘I Came to Save the World,'” according to the Russian Orthodox Church.
Russia celebrates the statue; US is silent
“The statue symbolizes hope and peace,” the Kremlin-controlled Voice of Russia states matter-of-factly.
Moscow-born Yuri Gavrilov, who heads the St. Paul and St. George Foundation in London, has been working on the statue project since 2005.
According to the Moscow Times, the project has received the support of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government. Christian Armenian sculptor Artush Papoian designed and cast the statue in Armenia.
“The ensemble with the blessing Christ in its center, seen from Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel, is designed to bring peace, mutual understanding, and hope for common salvation to a region engulfed in the flames of war,” the Moscow Spiritual Academy told Russia’s Interfax news service.
The United States has said nothing publicly about the statue. While the Voice of Russia, the Kremlin’s answer to the Voice of America (VOA), has covered the story, VOA has been silent.
A word search of VOA’s website, taken on the night of October 22, 2013, shows that VOA has mentioned the name Jesus only once since October 14. That sole mention was a reference to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ invitation to Pope Francis to visit the Holy Land.
Meanwhile, the Voice of Russia used the occasion of the Jesus statue to snipe at the “West-backed terrorists” who “seek to eliminate the centuries-old Christian presence in Syria.”