Mother Superior Agnes Mariam de la Croix (born Fadia al-Laham) is a Catholic nun from Syria who bills herself as an advocate of peace, moderation, negotiations, and reconciliation. As Syria descends into its third year of wanton slaughter, it is understandable then why so many war-weary Westerners would welcome Agnes and lend her their ears and open their hearts.
But just as tired, thirsty people stranded in the desert must beware of chasing mirages of oases, Westerners must beware of Mother Agnes.
She is not what she appears to be.
Mother Agnes is traveling and speaking throughout the U.S. and Canada on a tour sponsored by the Syria Solidarity Movement, a 501(c)(3) organization based in California founded by Paul Larudee. Larudee says, “We wanted to bring Mother Agnes Mariam to the U.S. to present a point of view that we feel hasn’t been presented too much in North America.”
And just what is this point of view that has been so unfairly shut out from the mainstream media?
It is a point of view as fact-based and morally repugnant as Holocaust denial.
Mother Agnes claims that the August 21, 2013 sarin gas attack on Ghouta in Damascus, Syria by the regime of Bashar al-Assad was staged, that it was faked and filmed by the regime’s opponents, the Syrian opposition. In her 50-page dossier on the horrible events of that fateful morning, she claimed that the dead, gassed children documented in those videos “seem mostly sleeping” and “under anesthesia.” This ludicrous claim was dismissed outright by Human Rights Watch (HRW): “there’s just no basis for the claims advanced by Mother Agnes. … [W]e have found no evidence to indicate any of the videos were fabricated.” So said Peter Bouckaert, Emergencies Director of HRW, whose organization meticulously documented the nightmarish aftermath of the sarin gas attack, interviewing doctors and residents of the neighborhood all of whom corroborated what the videos showed.
Agnes’ claim also flies in the face of the facts established by the United Nations team sent to investigate the incident. The report states conclusively, “chemical weapons were used on a relatively large scale, resulting in numerous casualties, particularly among civilians and including many children.”
Despite this, Syria Solidarity Movement is advertising Mother Agnes’s tour as means of answering the question: “What is Really Happening in Syria Today?”
Mother Agnes’s lies and falsehoods are nothing new. Syrian Christians for Peace denounced her for claiming at a press conference in Beirut that there had never been a single peaceful demonstration in Syria, “despite having been seen (a mere few hours before) in one of those peaceful demonstrations in Qalamoun.” They pointed out further that Syrian Christians have never seen a dime of the money she raised in the name of their beleaguered community and asked “that she be excommunicated and prevented from speaking in the name of the Order of Carmelites.”
Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Jesuit priest who was exiled by the Assad regime for speaking out against its murderous response to peaceful protests and for attending the funeral of 28-year-old martyred Christian filmmaker Bassel Shahade, described Mother Agnes thus:
“Mother Agnes knows how to dose the words and she is only, I repeat and I emphasize, the (able) clerical expression of the deceitful manipulation action of the Syrian regime. Mother Agnes is a self-proclaimed leader of a movement that does not exist on the ground, Musalaha (Reconciliation-ED), and it is a real problem because for her interpretation of the facts is always selective and one-sided: that the revolution is terrorism!”
These judgments of what appears to be a peace-loving idiosynchratic nun might seem harsh and unwarranted until we look at whether her deeds match her Christian pacifist mantra, her holy aura, and her stance of formal neutrality in the Syrian conflict.
The first indicator that Mother Agnes is a wolf in sheep’s skin is what she ‘likes’ on Facebook.
Yes, ‘liking’ a pro-Assad page after the regime has killed upwards of 120,000 Syrians is self-incriminating apostasy on its own, but ‘liking’ ACDA in some ways is far worse.
What is ACDA? Why, the Arab Centre for Defence and Armaments, of course!
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth,” but Mother Agnes seems to think ‘blessed are the heavily armed, for they shall inherit the Levant.’
Much more serious than Mother Agnes’ Facebook proclivities is her role in getting Western journalist Gilles Jacquier killed in Syria in 2012. She got visas for Jacquier and his crew into the country, urged them to go into an extremely dangerous area but refused to accompany them. Jacquier appears to have died in suspicious circumstances that indicate he was to be an unwitting party to a regime propaganda operation aimed at smearing the rebels.
“[Jacquier’s group] was also supposed to visit the hospital but they were detoured without explanation to a pro-Assad neighborhood, [Jacquier group member Sid Ahmed] Hammouche said, where they interviewed residents. As they left the area, the group encountered a pro-Assad march and heard an explosion.
“To his surprise, Hammouche said, the soldiers took no evident action to protect the journalists or respond to the explosion; instead, most of the soldiers dispersed without explanation, leaving four escorts who appeared relaxed and dismissed the noise as a ‘sound explosion.’ Hammouche said the soldiers urged the journalists to go toward the explosions to investigate. Hammouche said he and a Swiss colleague refused, remaining in one of two government vehicles, but Jacquier and the others traveled toward the source of the initial explosion.
“More explosions followed, Hammouche recounted: ‘There were four explosions total in a 10-minute period. And that’s it. We didn’t hear a sound after that.’
“Kenck, Jacquier’s cameraman, rushed back. The reporter, he said, appeared to have died in the explosions. At a local clinic where the body was taken, Hammoche recounted, Syrian authorities were insistent that the journalists give statements blaming the attack on ‘terrorists.’ They also urged Caroline Poiron to give her husband’s body over to Syrian authorities for what they termed an autopsy, pressure so strong that she, Hammouche, Kenck felt compelled to stand guard over the body for several hours before it could be given to French officials.”
Jacquier’s widow and two of his colleagues went on to publish a book in which they suggested that she was in on this lethal trap set by the regime.
When Mother Agnes isn’t ‘liking’ militarist Facebook pages promoting death and doing her part setting up journalists to be either used or killed, she spends time cuddling up with sectarian mass murderers like Mihraç Ural, the man responsible for the Banias massacre in which hundreds of Sunni Muslim civilians (at least a dozen of them children) were killed in cold blood.
Most recently, Mother Agnes organized the surrender and escape of 1,800 regime-starved civilians from the town of Moadamiyah, Damascus. As many as 300 military-aged men among them have been arrested and are being interrogated, which in Syria most likely means tortured.
Not once has Mother Agnes ever criticized the Syrian government’s conduct since 2011 and not once has she ever spoken to a pro-revolution event abroad. Instead, she waxes lyrical about atrocities – real and imagined – committed by the rebels and speaks only at pro-Assad events like this one in Italy or at venues where her feigned neutrality will fly only because people don’t know any better such as the Syria Solidarity Movement.
Fortunately, supporters of the revolution in the West are not allowing her to spread her vile lies unchecked. Brigades of free Syria activists emailed the Unitarian Church in Vancouver that was hosting Mother Agnes, notifying them of the snake in their midst and informing them of her true nature; they promptly cancelled the event. This follows a small but successful operation combatting a pro-Assad panel in Los Angeles.
This uptick in activism points to the fact that objective and subjective conditions for a solidarity movement in the West are ripening. President Barack Obama’s moon walk away from his own “red line” and into the arms of Assad’s best man, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, did two things:
- It obliterated the illusion among the revolution’s supporters that the U.S. or the international community would somehow come to the revolution’s rescue and for an entire month.
- The world’s attention was focused on the suffering of the Syrian people as the prospect of airstrikes loomed large.
Unfortunately, cruise missiles no longer hang over Assad’s head, but the long-term effect of these events is permanent. The opposition within Syria and in exile is becoming a bit more united with themselves and each other – rejection of Geneva II is nearly universal among armed Islamists, unarmed secularists, and the revolution’s moral authority, Kafranbel.
This growing unity is a reflection of the hard-won realization that the emancipation of Syria depends Syrians themselves, that “God helps those who help those who help themselves.” At the same time, the impenetrable wall of complete indifference among the non-Syrian general public to the plight of the people finally has cracks. Our task is to widen those small cracks to precipitate a flood.
Exposing the truth about Mother Agnes is a very necessary part of accomplishing that task.