Christians may be bombed, for that is convention. Muslims may not be gassed, for that is taboo
While the Prime Minister does his parliamentary arithmetic and establishes that there's no majority appetite for immediately launching cruise missiles into Damascus, the Archbishop of Canterbury focuses on the plight of Syria's Christians, who are already paying the price for being strangers in a foreign land.
They have, of course, been there since.. well, the time of Christ. But so have they in Bethlehem, Benghazi, Homs and Cairo. A century ago, Christians constituted 20 per cent of the regional population; now it is nearer five per cent, and falling. Each time 'the West' intervenes, it is the indigenous Christians who pay the price - often with their lives. We crushed Saddam; the Christians paid. We ejected Gaddafi; the Christians paid. We supported ousting Mubarak; the Christians paid. After Assad..? Well, Archbishop Justin has already spoken:
"It's absolutely clear that Christians in Syria are being persecuted," he said, speaking at 'Save Syria', hosted by Open Doors last month at the Church of England's General Synod in York.
Yes, even before the heinous use of chemical weapons captivated the world's attention, Syria's Christians were 'being chased out in large numbers'. But HM Government was not overly concerned about that. And by 'chased out', the Archbishop meant systematically slaughtered - one by one; cleansed utterly from the region by warring factions of Islamists. But the Prime Minister was content to 'stand by' and 'do nothing'.
"I would encourage people to pray very strongly," the Archbishop said. "Continue to pray and to support this kind of campaign and to write to MPs asking them to think very carefully about the wisdom of supplying further weapons to an area of such complex and extreme violence."
Alistair Burt, Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, said: "What the petition tells us is that not one side or the other should win, just that the killing has to stop for normal life to return and it is the biggest determination of the UK government to do all we can to assist that."
Not one side or the other should win? That is HM Government's foreign policy as far as it relates to Syria? That'll work.
The Archbishop promised to speak out about the plight of Syrian Christians in meetings with government figures. But nothing happened until President Assad (ostensibly) used Sarin nerve gas against women and children. Whether he did or not is a matter of some conjecture. He may have done; it is perhaps even highly likely that he has. And it is a grievous moral offence against God and humanity. It isn't that the death of Syria's Muslims is somehow less acceptable than the death of Christians: it is the manner of their dying. Christians may be bombed, beaten and hacked to death, for that it convention; Muslims may not be gassed, for that is taboo.
And so our intervention is paused, awaiting Parliamentary assent. In the meantime, the Church of England warns with one voice. Raining missiles on Damascus may 'send a message', but it will not save innocent people. You only have to consider the plight of Egypt's Copts to see the future for Syria's Christians. Churches burn, homes are looted, men abducted, girls raped, and mobs armed with axes hack them to pieces.
The more we 'intervene', the more Christians are marginalised. In Syria, they are happier living under the the Shia Alawite dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad than under those we call the 'rebels' or 'opposition forces', who are, in fact, disparate groups of Al Qaeda-affiliated, Wahhabi-Islamist jihadists.
There used to be 80,000 Christians in Homs. The last one was murdered almost a year ago. Only five months ago in Benghazi, Libya, 60 Christians were rounded up by extremist vigilantes. Some were tortured; one was murdered. The media didn't stream the horrors live into our living rooms: HM Government 'stood by' and 'did nothing'.
We liberated Iraq for Christians to be cleansed. We bombed Libya for Christians to be persecuted. We 'stand by' and watch a military coup in Egypt for Christians to be oppressed and exiled. We 'send a message' to Syria for the exodus to continue.