MTV (Lebanon)

BEIRUT - After having earlier stood by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch has now declared that the fall of what he calls the "dictatorship" of the current regime would not affect Christians in Syria, reported Lebanon's MTV television (not affiliated with the American music broadcaster)

Still Patriarch Bishara al-Rai, whose followers extend across the region, said he continues to fear that Syria could descend into civil war or into the hands of a more stringent regime.

"The Syrian regime is a dictatorship and the Lebanese have suffered from it," al-Rai said. "But still, the departure of Assad will not affect Christians in Syria."

He explained his reasoning by stating that "Christians traditionally support whomever is in power because they are not usually involved in politics."

The Patriarch cited the example of Saddam Hussein protecting the apolitical Christian minority in Iraq. "As long as they do not involve themselves in politics in Arab countries that have one party rule, they have nothing to fear," al-Rai said.

"The departure of the Syrian regime does not worry us, but there are three things we are fearful of: first, that there could be a civil war, or else a division within the country, or that extremists will come to power."

He added that Muslims are generally moderate, but "unfortunately extremists could come into power if backed by other countries."

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