12/02/2013 08:19 EST | Updated 02/01/2014 05:59 EST

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

Before the Syrian conflict started, Mother Agnes-Mariam led a life that might be described as devout, withdrawn and humble.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. At the time, her armature analysis of the incident became basis of Russia's so-called intelligence that rebels had carried out the attack.

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.