Fearing Sunni domination, Syrian Christians backing Assad

Syria’s Christian minority is sizable, about 10 percent of the population, though some here say the share is actually lower these days. Though their sentiments are by no means monolithic — Christians are represented in the opposition, and loyalty to the government is often driven more by fear than fervor — as a group they help explain how President Bashar al-Assad has held onto segments of his constituency, in spite of a brutal crackdown aimed at crushing a popular uprising. For many Syrian Christians, Mr. Assad remains predictable in a region where unpredictability has driven many of their brethren from war-wrecked places like Iraq and Lebanon, and where many have felt threatened in post-revolutionary Egypt.

They fear that in the event the president falls, they might be subjected to reprisals at the hands of a conservative Sunni leadership for what it saw as Christian support of the Assad family. They worry that the struggle to dislodge Mr. Assad could turn into a civil war, unleashing sectarian bloodshed in a country where minorities, ethnic and religious, have found a way to co-exist for the most part.

The anxiety is so deep that many ignore the opposition’s counterpoint: The government has actually made those divisions worse as a way of dividing the country and ensuring the rule of the Assad family, which itself springs from a Muslim minority.