President Donald J. Trump’s decision to arm the Kurdish militia in Syria is one more important step in his effort to completely defeat the Islamic State. The Syrian Kurds have been among the most effective forces in combating ISIS and them with additional arms is critical to retaking the ISIS capital of Raqqa. But there is more to the story. Aid to the Kurdish forces is aid to the group most friendly to Christians in the region.
As Steven Wagner, President of Solidarity with the Persecuted Church stated,
“In making the tough choice to arm Kurdish forces over strong Turkish objections, President Trump put the defeat of the Islamic State and the protection of Christians in the Middle East ahead of other less principled calculations.
“Not only are the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (the YPG) militarily vital allies in the fight against the Islamic State, the Kurdish administered state of Rojava in Northeastern Syria is home to a substantial Christian population,” Wagner continued. “In fact, the birthplace of one of Syria’s great Christian leaders, Patriarch Aphrem of the Syria Orthodox Church, is the town of Qamishli, which is within the Kurdish-controlled region,”
This contrasts with Turkish-controlled territories in Syria, where Christians are not welcome. Indeed, in Turkey itself Christians have become increasingly subject to persecution.
To date, Turkey has played an incendiary and unconstructive role in the Syria civil war. Turkish president Erdogan seems more motivated by territorial ambitions than by the desire to create a pluralistic Syrian state – one in which Christians can live as equal citizens. It is a positive sign that President Trump overruled Turkish objections to U.S. collaboration with the Kurds.
There is still much to be done. The Kurdish administration of Rojava is imperfect from the perspective of Christians. Non-Kurds are largely excluded from participation in the political life of the state. By virtue of President Trump’s decision, the United States will now have greater leverage with our Kurdish allies.
“We call on the Trump administration to use every ounce of this leverage to push for greater political and social pluralism, particularly toward Christians and other religious minorities.
“Arming Kurdish forces in Syria to help destroy the Islamic State poses no military threat to Turkey. And the U.S. should stand ready to ensure the security of our NATO ally from external threat. We at Solidarity with the Persecuted Church see this policy announcement by the Trump administration as a major step forward in the creation of the new Syria, in which Christians will play a major role in the life of the state. Thank you, President Trump,” concluded the SPC President