Europe should stop luring Syrians away from their homeland and instead focus on ending the civil war, the Archbishop of Aleppo has said.
Hitting back at Anglican bishops who signed a letter calling for Britain to take in tens of thousands more migrants, Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart told BBC Radio 4: “If they look to our country, our communities there, we suffer when people leave our country.
“What I would ask everybody to do is to try our best to stop feeding and encouraging radicalism and fundamentalism, and find a political solution where compromise may be done.”
His comments come after a group of 84 bishops from the Church of England wrote a letter to the prime minister last month calling for him to take 50,000 migrants over the space of five years. Although initially private, the letter was made public this weekend and appeared in all the Sunday papers after the bishops did not receive a reply.
Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, said: “It is disheartening that we have not received any substantive reply despite an assurance from the prime minister that one would be received.”
However, when asked if the Anglican bishops’ suggestion of taking more migrants would harm Syria, Archbishop Jeanbart responded: “Yes of course. It harms Syria and harms the refugees.”
The Syrian Archbishop added that he did not blame the migrants for fleeing Syria as they fear for their lives. However, if the West wishes to stem the tide it must bring peace to the country.
“As long as the radicalism and killing continue, of course they are afraid. Perhaps if the West tried to find a way, people who want to could live together in our country. I ask them to push towards a political solution so we may have peace and safety.
“I do not contest the right or Christian duty to call for a charitable act, but it is not just a question of accommodating people.”
Last week, Archbishop Jeanbart, whose diocese covers the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Idlib, Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Hassake, begged for Western intervention to save Syria’s Christians from “fundamentalist, jihadist mercenaries” who are “killing anyone who would speak of freedom, citizenship, religious freedom and democracy.”
“We are facing the rage of an extremist jihad; we may disappear soon,” he warned, adding: “Christian communities are the prime target of the so-called caliphate’s religious cleansing campaign.”
The British parliament is set to vote on launching airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria in the coming weeks.