When Khury became prime minister in 1945, there was no Ministry of Awkaf, religious endowments, in Syria. Its duties were handled by the Prime Minister’s Office. A parliamentary bloc opposed to Khury’s National Bloc in Parliament opposed his appointment saying that it was absurd for a Christian to administer the affairs of the Muslim community in Syria. Surprisingly, the Muslim bloc, headed by Sheikh Abd al-Hamid al-Tabba, vetoed the refusal saying: “We, the Muslim bloc in Parliament, entrust Faris Bey al-Khury with our Awkaf more so than we entrust ourselves."
One of the ironies of life in a village that makes a modest livelihood out of its Christian connections is that by a margin of nearly two to one, more Muslims than Christians still speak the language of Christ, although churches outnumber mosques by eight to two. However, true to Christ's teachings and unlike most of the world, the various faiths here have generally gotten along well for many centuries.
"As kids, I participated in Christmas every year. I even used to do the Christian chants," said Amas Kamar Mallwola, 23, a Muslim. (...) "I have no problem with this because Jesus Christ was a prophet just as Mohammad was. I am happy to speak a language so few speak and to speak a language of the prophet, Jesus Christ."
Kamil-Alexandre from the Syrian Thinktank in Montreal writes:
While Syria has a long way to go in improving political freedoms, no one can ignore the other side of the human rights coin; Religious freedom. (...) Syria, and Lebanon are the Arab world’s only places where Christians and other minorities felt safe and at home. (...) Syrian Christians who have been watching tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians escape the new more-sectarian Iraq into Syria, have one more reminder to work hard on making sure Syria remains a secular country.
Syrian Christians and Muslims celebrate the lighting of a Christmas tree called 'Peace Tree' at a square in Damascus on Wednesday evening Dec. 21, 2005. The tree, made of steel wrapped up with 12 million shiny beads, is the Middle East's largest Christmas tree. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)