Understanding the Syrian Puzzle: A Conversation with Father Paolo Dall’Oglio

On August 6, 2012, IPI hosted a roundtable discussion entitled “Understanding the Syrian Puzzle,” featuring Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, an Italian Jesuit priest who spent 30 years in Syria promoting inter-religious understanding and dialogue. This off-the-record conversation brought together over 40 participants drawn from the UN and diplomatic community in New York, including officials from member states, UN agencies, NGOs, and think tanks. 

In Syria, where he lived since the early 1980s, Father Paolo led the restoration of a 1,000 year old Byzantine monastery—known as the Mar Musa monastery—that stands today as a spiritual and physical meeting point between Muslims and Christians.  Father Paolo was expelled by the Syrian government in June 2012 for supporting pro-democracy protestors in the country, including by addressing in May 2012 an open letter to Kofi Annan, the then UN-Arab League Special Envoy for the Syrian crisis, calling for greater international involvement.

This interactive discussion focused on the current situation in Syria and prospects for the future, building on Father Paolo’s unique on-the-ground insights and in-depth knowledge of the dynamics at play in the country. The participants explored in particular the role of minorities in the conflict and the prospects for interfaith dialogue, and engaged Father Paolo about the political future of Syria and the potential for democracy in the country.

The event was moderated by Ambassador Maureen Quinn, IPI Senior Adviser, and was convened under the Chatham House rule of non-attribution.