One of Syria’s most senior Catholics has issued an impassioned plea to young Syrians, begging them to stay. Describing the exodus of Syria’s young as a “tsunami”, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III warned that the scale of youth immigration was so high it risked annihilating the church in Syria.
The Damascus-based prelate addressed his open letter to young people primarily in Syria, but also in Iraq and Lebanon, telling them that the “almost communal wave of youth emigration … breaks my heart, wounding me deeply and dealing me a deadly blow. Given this tsunami of emigration …What future is left for the Church? What will become of our homeland? What will become of our parishes and institutions?”
While acknowledging the many reasons for young Christians to flee, Gregorios urges his young flock not to go. “I implore you to remain, arming yourselves with resolution, patience, endurance, strength and good courage,” he writes, holding up their ancestors as examples to be followed.
Referencing the revolution of 1860 “when thousands of Christians were killed, and the churches of Damascus Old City were burnt down,” Gregorios points out that, at the time there was just the one cathedral, but now there are nine churches in Damascus.
“My dear young people,” he implores: “Our forebears underwent great difficulties, but they exercised patience and so the Church remained, Christianity remained and the number of Christians even grew after 1860.
“That is why I say again, despite all your suffering, stay! Be patient! Don’t emigrate! Stay for the Church, your homeland, for Syria and its future! Stay! Do stay!”
Although much has been said about the moral imperative to welcome thousands of asylum seekers into Europe, little has been said of the moral implications of allowing the best and brightest of the Middle East to abandon those countries, and what it means for those left behind.
Commenting on the ongoing migrant crisis, The Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Revd Justin Welby said in a statement: “This is a hugely complex and wicked crisis that underlines our human frailty and the fragility of our political systems. My heart is broken by the images and stories of men, women and children who have risked their lives to escape conflict, violence and persecution.
“We need a holistic response to this crisis that meets immediate humanitarian need while tackling its underlying drivers.”
However, in what appears to be a plea to take in more migrants, he added: “The people of these islands have a long and wonderful history of offering shelter and refuge, going back centuries – whether it be Huguenot Christians, Jewish refugees, Ugandan Asians, Vietnamese boat people or many, many more.
“It has always been controversial at the time it happened, always been seen as too difficult. Yet each time we have risen to the challenge and our country has been blessed by the result.”
Speaking in a debate on Sky News this morning, Breitbart London’s Editor-in-Chief Raheem Kassam said: “We have to look at the wider ramifications of opening the doors to hundreds of thousands of refugees.”