An Hour with Father Paolo

This article was originally published in The Kurdish Review and is reprinted here at the request of the author. Father Paolo is a well-known advocate of federalism in Syria, especially for Kurds.

By Sirwan Kajjo

Father Paolo. Photo credit: George Newcomb

Reverend Paolo Dall’Oglio, head of the Deir Mar Musa monastery in Syria, was expelled from the country by the regime. He was accused of supporting the revolution and plotting to destabilize the sovereignty of Syria.

Father Paolo is currently visiting the United States in an attempt to lobby for the people of Syria who strive for freedom in Democracy. He has been working tirelessly while using all of his connections in America to persuade decision-makers to step up their approach regarding the Syrian crisis.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted him on July 23, 2012. I was lucky to be one of the very few people who were invited to attend the little event. He entered the room after everybody was already seated and waiting for him. His features were those of someone who’d been the hardships throughout his life. When he was offered a drink, he refused to have it, saying it was Ramadan. He never eats or drinks in public during the holy month of Muslims.

Father Paolo was an imperative figure in promoting religious tolerance in Syria. Throughout his many years there, he worked intensely on the idea of coexistence in the heterogonous nation and many of his closest friends were from different religious and ethnic backgrounds.

At the Carnegie event, the originally-Italian priest gave a lecture on the stamina of the Syrian people against its brutal regime. He said when people first took to the streets; the purpose was to demand their freedom and dignity back. After several months of perpetual atrocities by the regime, according to him, protestors were obliged to take another path of their struggle and to shift their peaceful efforts to bring Syrian to Democracy. Arming the revolution was an option that the people didn’t want to choose. “The conflict in Syria has a sectarian dimension now whose end is uncertain”, says Father Paolo.

I asked if he thinks a potential Kurdish-Arab confrontation would erupt. He said Syria has already been slipped into a civil war. According to him, anything is likely to happen in a country where the number of causalities is increasingly at ridiculously high rates around the clock. He also blamed the Arab opposition for not embracing the Kurds.

One of the aspects that make this man so unique is his endless support for a federal Kurdish region in Syria. He also believes that the West should realize that a federal state in Syria is the only way to protect the country’s integrity. What also surprised me about this man was his aspiration for four Kurdish federations in the greater Middle East. He thinks this soon will be a reality.

 

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