Syria, officially ‘Syrian Arab Republic’ mired in a civil war for more than four years ago, is today a land devastated and destroyed. In the best case, it will take a couple of decades to recover. We present a very different lesser-known side of this country, way different to other Arab states, that before the Arab Spring was a prosperous and highly cultured place where Christians and Muslims lived together and were respected. Check out these interesting facts about Syria:
Syria is a republic since 1963. In 2012, it was approved in a referendum the current Constitution, which defines Syria as a secular democratic republic with full sovereignty, indivisible, and part of the Arab nation, based on the principles of equality before the law, religious freedom and private property.
Zero external (and IMF) debt
Before the civil war, Syria was the only Arabic country with zero external debt. The Assad government owes no money to IMF nor other foreign institutions since 2007.
State owns the oil production
Syria is the only Mediterranean country in which Government still owns the oil company. Assad´s administration didn´t want to privatize it. Syria has oil reserves of 2,500 million barrels, whose exploitation is reserved for state enterprises.
Sharia not found
Despite the common belief, Syrian women are not forced to cover her face with a veil, wearing the burqa or chador. They have the same rights men´s do regarding studying, health and education.
GMOs in foods are banned
In 2012, Syrian government banned GMOs in food to prevent the health of human beings, animals, vegetables and the environment, in Bashar Al Assad´s words.
10% of Christians
Islam is predominant there: Muslims obey mainly Sunni orthodoxy, although there are Alawites, Shiites, Druze and ismaïlites. Christianity in its various denominations (Orthodox, Syrian, Maronite, Armenian Catholic rite, etc.) is limited to the peripheral provinces and some urban neighborhoods. Christians are around 10% of the population. We should mention that, unlike other nations in the Middle East, Syria respects freedom of worship; therefore, there are no partialism clashes between Christians and Muslims; even women can travel freely through the streets without having to wear any headscarf.
5 Popes with Syrian origin
The first of all was Saint Aniceto, natural of the Syrian town of Emesa -current Homs-, ruling for eleven years in the second century -from 155 to 166-, becoming the eleventh crowned pope.
519 years later, Juan V, from the city of Antioch -after occupied during the Ottoman Empire and now part of Turkey was consecrated by the College of Cardinals to direct the destiny of the Church of 685-686.
The third Syrian-born Pope was Sergius I, named after two elections in 687 -Century VII, which also came from the city of Antioquia.
Seven years after the death of St. Sergius and the papal chair it was occupied by Syrian Sisinio that the time of his election as Pope in 708, changed its name to Sisinnius.
Sisinnius was replaced by another Syrian, Constantine I, a native of the ancient city of Tyre, currently territory of Lebanon and was the highest authority of the Christian church year 708 to 715.
Gregory III closes the Syrian connection priests in the throne of the Holy Church, also in the eighth century (731-741), the last pope who was not born in Europe until the consecration of the Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio -Francisco- in 2013