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Tyrants Basically Hate Friendship

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

Tyrants and bullies always meddle in happy and healthy relationships in order to destroy them. Power mongers have always abhored happiness and goodwill. You’ll find this on every level — from totalitarian dictators right on down to the petty mean girls in a middle school cafeteria. Relationships are the primary source of power. And wherever true friendship flourishes, human beings are not so easily exploited by outside influences. This is exactly why totalitarian programs and regimes have always had a keen interest in the extermination of one-on-one friendship – or any personal relationships they cannot regulate and control.

I thought about this the other day when I listened to Melkite Archbishop Jeanbart of Aleppo talk about the devastation of Aleppo and the dire situation for Christians there and throughout Syria. Christians of Aleppo have been leaving in droves since ISIS started fighting government forces there in 2012. (Just to give you a taste of what’s going on, read the travel advisory from wikitravel. In part it states: “If in Syria, the best advice is to GET OUT.”) The brutality and bloodshed have been merciless. And Aleppo — once a magnificent city — is now thoroughly scarred by the fighting. The accompanying photos give a small idea of the contrast before and after.

The archbishop spoke about relations between the Christians and Muslims of Aleppo before the Civil War. Life was good, relations were friendly and people lived in peace. Then, ISIS injected into the culture a certain “mentality” as it practiced its senseless murder and destruction. It is a mentality of separation, division, hatred, and violence that has destroyed the co-existence of different religious groups.

ISIS is in the business of sowing ill will and poisoning any chance of trust among peoples because no one in their right mind would ever choose to live voluntarily under such a regime. Its power can only come about through brute force. Christians in Aleppo — and all civilians — report feeling safest when in government-controlled areas, not ISIS controlled areas. So even though President Assad is considered a brutal tyrant among many in the West, many who are personally living through the hell in today’s Syria, including Christians, tend to feel that Assad is at least the best of a sorry lot.

In any case, what we are seeing now in Syria and throughout the Middle East is the recurrence of conditions that promote genocide. And it’s probably fair to say the recurrence of genocide itself. As we ponder this, we should remember that the conditions that promote genocide always involve propaganda that sows ill will and the demonization of a people. We see it in the rise of anti-Semitism. And we see it as the Western press promotes a strong anti-Christian bias which also fuels these conditions. And when the mass media goes along with such things, you get a death spiral. Worse, leaders in the West who say little and do less about it all fan the flames through their indifference. This toleration and lack of condemnation of the violence sends a clear signal to the perpetrators that they can get away with as much murder and mayhem as they like.

Indeed, ISIS is doing to Christians just as the Ottomans did to Armenians as they embarked on that genocide that murdered 1.5 million a hundred years ago. I wrote about this in my April 24 Weekly Standard article “Genocide begins with Groupthink.” So it fascinated me to hear the Archbishop opine that what we are seeing now with the rise of ISIS looks very much like a re-establishment of the Ottoman Empire.

It’s especially sad to reflect on the fact that there has been very little social progress over the past 50 years. Actually, it’s been an era of great social regression. Our best hope is for people of goodwill to remember the link between freedom and friendship, and to persist in planting the seeds of both.

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