Christian MP Hammoudé Sabbagh was elected by his colleagues to chair the Syrian Parliament. Rarely in a country where Christians represent only 5% of the population, this has happened only once since 1946.
The elected members of the Syrian People’s Assembly (the unicameral Parliament of the country) elected on September 28 a new leader, Hammoudé Sabbagh, who became the first Christian to obtain this post for decades in Syria. The 58-year-old Syriac-born man from Hassaké province in the north-east of the country, won 193 out of a total of 252, according to local media quoted by AFP.
He was the first Christian Syrian to be appointed to the post since Fares el-Khoury, who was twice elected head of parliament during the French term of office (1920-1946) and a third time after Syria’s independence.
Hammoudé Sabbagh is licensed in law and a member of the Ba’ath party, the ruling party in the country since Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current President Bashar al-Assad.
Before the start of the conflict in Syria in March 2011, Christians from 11 different communities accounted for about 5% of the population. They have largely stood aside from the conflict, but many of them have taken sides with the government, especially for fear of radical Islamism by some rebel groups.
Moreover, the Syrian government has been a protector of minorities in Syria throughout the war. Christians have been targeted in recent years by jihadists in the Islamic State group, who have perpetrated mass kidnappings and destroyed churches. According to the Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, Monsignor Antoine Audo, half of the 1.5 million Syrian Christians would have left the country.