The news from Aleppo is very much the same: the friends I have there, who received me so kindly a decade ago, are still living where they have always lived, and their son in America is able to phone them from time to time, when the phone lines work. They are able to walk in the streets of their district, which is one of the Christian quarters of the city, and able to go shopping; but they are not able to leave the quarter, which is guarded by the troops of the Syrian Army. Aleppo is like Beirut in the seventies, a divided city, only part of which is under government control.
It must be very frightening living in one of the Christian quarters of Aleppo and knowing that only the thin line of government troops separates you from the militias allied to Al-Qaeda and financed in large part by Saudi Arabia and Qatar; militias dedicated it seems to eradicating the millennial Christian communities from their ancient homeland.
The news from Britain is very much the same. Almost everyone in Britain regards the situation of our Christian brethren in Syria with great concern. Prince Charles, may God bless him, has just spoken about this. You can read a report of what he said here. The well-known columnist Taki has had some forthright words in the Spectator, which are well worth reading
Our own Ed West has been remorselessly highlighting this issue and even written a short book about it. Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, told me in conversation that he deplores the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Indeed, the consensus is unanimous in this country: the only people who seem not to take this matter seriously are our government.
Earlier this month, Alan Johnson wrote in the Telegraph about what our government is doing, which is essentially the strategy of “universalise to minimise”. The Cameron regime seems to think that because it is opposed to all religious persecution this means it does not have to take concrete action in the Middle East.
Perhaps there is nothing they can do? True, Britain is no longer a great power, but it has a certain amount of prestige. It dispenses foreign aid. Our government could make clear that it will not give aid to countries where Christians are persecuted. (It refuses to give foreign aid to countries that persecute gays, after all, and quite rightly too.) And it could disrupt sporting, social, cultural and diplomatic links with the countries that support terrorism such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. There is plenty the British government can do, if it chooses to. That it chooses not to is a sign that this is the most anti-Christian government we have ever had.
Next year there is an election here, and this will be our chance to do something. I shall be writing (not literally, of course) “Aleppo” on my ballot paper. Please do the same. And in 2015, when the general election comes, let’s have regime change.