- (Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri)
Syria's Christian community is said to be going against the tide in the nation's Arab Spring protests by supporting President Bashar Assad.
It is a move for self-preservation for the country's roughly 2.5 million Orthodox Christian's, who fear religious intolerance will grow if Syria's government is toppled, the Spiegel International reported.
The move came after Assad reportedly threatened violence against the nation's Christians if they opposed his authority, alluding to church-burnings in rhetoric during a meeting with church leaders.
The result is almost blind support for the current administration.
"President Assad is a very cultured man," the Syrian Catholic archbishop of Damascus Gregorios Elias Tabé told Spiegel International.
To keep the peace for the religious minority population, Tabé dismisses the protesters as disgruntled citizens.
"We're a nation of 23 million," Tabé said, "and no law can ever satisfy everyone. That's true in every country – there are always 10 percent who are sacrificed."
But it seems that the rest of the country is ratcheting up its efforts to overthrow the current government.
The U.N. estimates that at least 4,000 people have died since protests began 8 months ago, turning into what some are calling a civil war.
"As soon as there were more and more defectors threatening to take up arms, I said this in August before the Security Council, that there's going to be a civil war," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said at a press conference in Geneva. "And at the moment that's how I am characterizing this."
World governments are levying heavy sanctions against Syria in an attempt to squash the revolt by forcing a regime change.
The European Union stopped trading bonds, issuing grants and providing loans to Syria, according to a Bloomberg report. The U.S. has banned people from doing business with Syria’s military and banks. Turkey froze Syrian assets in its banks.
The sanctions come as reports surface of the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army joining forces to topple the Assad regime.
"The council recognised the Free Syrian Army as a reality, while the army recognised the council as the political representative" of the opposition, Syrian National Council's Khaled Khoja told AFP.
It is unclear how any change in government will affect the nation's Christian population.
Similar concerns are facing Christian minority populations in countries across the Middle East, including Egypt, Iraq and Tunisia.