Lecturer talks Baylor, Syrian civil war ties

By David McLain

The civil war in Syria is closer to Baylor than the more than 7,000 miles that separate Waco from Damascus.

Baylor Arabic language lecturer and Syrian national Abdulmesih Saadi, spoke to an interested community of Wacoans and Baylor faculty gathered at Lake Shore Baptist Church Wednesday.

“The current regime is finished,” Saadi said. “It will collapse. The issue is when.”

Saadi began the evening introducing the audience to a few important nuances relative to Syrian culture that he believes shapes the way many perceive the conflict.

“For the Middle Easterner the name is not just a name, it is a mission,” Saadi said.

Saadi’s name Abdulmesih translates as “servant of Messiah.” Saadi told the audience of how this name influenced his entrance into the Syriac Orthodox monastic tradition as a young boy.

Saadi showed the importance of knowing the depth of Syrian culture, as well as the country’s political history when trying to interpret the current Syrian conflict. Syrian culture is just as important, Saadi said.

Giving a brief background of Syrian history, Saadi told of how “it [Syria] was rich in thoughts, politics, and culture.”

“In November 1970, Hafiz al-Asad, a member of the Socialist Ba’th Party and the minority Alawi sect, seized power in a bloodless coup,” according to the CIA website.

Saadi drew a distinction between what he called the “government” and the “regime,” and the way those two entities have interacted with the people of Syria.

“In the west, the government must serve the people,” Saadi said. “In the east the people must serve the government. This is not true in Syria. The people and the government must serve the regime.”

Stephen Gardner, Lake Shore Baptist member and Chair of the Department of Economics at Baylor, invited Saadi to speak to the church and introduced him to the audience.

“Lake Shore is a church that very much wants to interpret our faith in the world around us,” Gardner said.

Gardner said Lake Shore Baptist has consistently expressed an interest internationally, specifically in Ghana, Morocco and Cameroon, which led to the invitation for Saadi to speak Wednesday.

The event ran from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m., with many in the audience remaining afterward to participate in a brief time of questions for Saadi.

Saadi closed the event with a challenge directly to the audience.

“Certainly Syrians deserve better,” Saadi said. “Syrians are civilized people. We need to deeply pray for each other, for Syria and the Syrian people.”