Four things Syria must do after Bashar al-Assad

It’s not too early to consider the way forward for Syria after Bashar al-Assad. Examples in other countries show that a transition will be greatly aided if Syrians can do these four things:

3. Protect, encourage, and engage civil society

In the brief sunlight period following Bashar al-Assad’s ascent to power in 2000 after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, cafes buzzed with vibrant political and social debate amid expectation of change.

Syrians are a vital, engaged, intellectual people. Even in the darkest periods of the 42-year reign of the Assads, in a police state as invasive as the erstwhile East Germany, passionate debate persisted underground. A thriving civil society – comprising a free press; nongovernmental health, education, and development organizations; returning intellectuals from the diaspora, and unrestricted universities and students movements – is essential for reconstruction.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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