Mother Agnes-Mariam: 'Assad's nun' or peace activist?

A 63-year-old nun has emerged as an unlikely and outspoken figure amid the Syrian conflict. CBC's As It Happens spoke to Mother Superior Agnes-Mariam of the Cross about her controversial role.

63-year-old nun emerges as a controversial figure amid Syria's civil war

Mother Superior Agnes-Mariam walks with people fleeing the rebel-held suburb of Moadamiyeh to the government-held territory in Damascus, Syria, in October. Amid Syria's brutal civil war, she has emerged as an unlikely power broker and figure of controversy. (Dusan Vranic/Associated Press)

Before the Syrian conflict started, Mother Agnes-Mariam led a life that might be described as devout, withdrawn and humble. Today, the 63-year-old Lebanese nun has emerged as an unlikely outspoken and controversial figure amid the civil war.

Mother Superior Agnes-Mariam of the Cross is the superior at the Monastery of St. James, a Catholic enclave north of Damascus. She first made headlines after the chemical weapons attack in Damascus in September.

Since then, her detractors refer to her derisively as "Assad's nun," accusing her of taking sides with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. And she is often championed by the regime's apologists.

But Mother Agnes, who has recently acted as a go-between to negotiate ceasefires, says that she is on a mission for peace in Syria.  

CBC's As It Happens reached Mother Agnes-Mariam in Toronto, where she was speaking, and talked to her about her controversial role in the conflict.


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