A prominent Syrian nun has withdrawn from the annual Stop the War conference after other speakers refused to share a platform with her.
Mother Agnes, the mother superior of a monastery and convent in Qara, Syria, gained prominence after speaking about the way Syrian rebels have targeted minorities in the country. On the other hand, her opponents call her an “Assad propagandist.”
The nun pulled out of the anti-war conference, which is due to take place in London on November 30, after journalists Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones refused to share a platform with her.
The row highlights how the Left and the anti-war movement have been split by events in Syria.
Some believe that anti-imperialists should put aside their concerns about the Assad government because it is currently fighting an imperialist onslaught on Syria designed to break any resistance to the West and Israel.
Others believe that anti-imperialists can maintain both an anti-Assad and an anti-West position.
In a statement to Stop the War Mother Agnes said: “It has come to my attention that my participation in your conference has become a matter of serious contention… This is apparently due to a campaign of cruel and unsubstantiated accusations which seek to work against my efforts and those of the Mussalaha (Reconciliation) Initiative in Syria.
“The basis of our work toward peace is reconciliation and forgiveness. This means extending an olive branch to some who may initially refuse it, and accepting an olive branch from others who are despised, even by our friends.
“In the case of Syria, I am guided by the terrible events of human provenance that are reaping misery and death without end in sight. I and my fellow members of the Mussalaha movement feel compelled to find a path toward national redemption that applies the principles of reconciliation and forgiveness that is different from either the way of the sword or even the nonviolent exclusion of other Syrians, whatever their views or affiliations may be.”
Earlier famous US journalist Jeremy Scahill had announced that he would not share a platform with Mother Agnes which prompted left-wing activist Owen Jones to follow suit.
Jones wrote: “Mother Agnes is perhaps most infamous for publishing a 50-page report claiming that the video footage of the Ghoutta massacre was faked, that the children suffocating to death had been kidnapped by rebels and were actually sleeping or “under anaesthesia”.
“This was the most striking, crank-like example of Mother Agnes blaming what were widely accepted atrocities on the rebels, and therefore her detractors regard here as a mere mouthpiece for the Assad dictatorship.”
Meanwhile, Stop the War have issued a statement about the row.
“Over the last few days a campaign has developed over the invitation we extended to Mother Agnes – a nun from Syria, who leads a campaign called Mussalaha (Reconciliation) – to speak in London at the International Anti-War Conference on 30 November organised by Stop the War Coalition.
“Mother Agnes has now withdrawn from speaking at the conference. In inviting speakers to participate in its events, Stop the War has never sought to endorse all their views. We have always provided a platform for a diversity of opinions within a broad anti-war perspective.
“We hope that we can now build the conference as a strong focus for opposition to war and imperialism.”