Christians in Syria’s Suwayda discuss history, coexistence with Druze majority

SUWAYDA, Syria (North Press) – In addition to the Druze majority, the governorate of Suwayda in Syria’s south contains Christians and Sunni Muslims amid an atmosphere full of love and peace, according to the residents.

The population density of the Druze is concentrated in the western half of the governorate, and they have several ancient churches. 

The governorate of Suwayda is home to the country’s Druze minority, an ethnoreligious group which practices a monotheistic Abrahamic religion and speaks the Arabic language. Historically, the region has been mostly pro-government, even from the start of the country’s nine-year-crisis and civil war.

“I never felt discriminated against for living in a Druze-majority region,” said Khaled al-Ja’at, a Christian cleric in Suwayda.

“The government authorities tried to play with religious motives for clear intelligence agendas, but they failed to make a division within the community,” al-Ja’at added.

Kamal al-Shofani, a historian and researcher from Suwayda, said that the Christians inhabited the region before the Druze, and some of them came to Jabal al-Druze (Mountain of the Druze) at the end of the 17th century, fleeing Ottoman oppression. 

Al-Shofani who translated many works of western travelers who came to Jabal al-Druze in the 17th and 18th centuries, added that the history of Christianity in the Jabal al-Druze region is very ancient.

He noted that the Christians have monuments in southern Syria that are still a witness to their authenticity.

The al-Qattami family is one of the first families that came to the region and inhabited in the town of Kharba, 21 km southwest of Suwayda, according to al-Shofani.

Aqla Beg al-Qattami was a friend and assistant to Sultan al-Atrash, leader of the Great Syrian Revolt, and took part in several battles against the French in 1925-1928.

More than 55,000 Greek Orthodox and Capuchin Catholic Christians lived in Suwayda before 2011, according to a recent statistic obtained by North Press.

However, the number decreased by half, and now there are only 27,000 Christians in Suwayda, according to statistics from the Greek Orthodox Church.

A cleric who preferred not to be named told North Press that the degradation of the economic and security situation and search for a better life forced many families to emigrate.

“Our ancestors lived here with the Druze in peace and love, and the ties between them were not cut over the years,” Fadi Kabouchi, parish of Jesus the King for Capuchin Fathers Church, told North Press.

“There were several reciprocal amicable visits between Druze sheikhs and Christian clerics,” Kabouchi added.      

“We are one community and we share customs, traditions and a future.” 

Reporting by Sami al-Ali