The Archbishop of Aleppo has called on the West to act to save Syria from the “fundamentalist, jihadist mercenaries” who threaten his country, “killing anyone who would speak of freedom, citizenship, religious freedom and democracy.”
According to the Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart, the situation for Christians in Aleppo is “desperate,” with churches bombed and no way of finding work for the people. He is asking the West to help Syria reclaim “our freedom and our rights” from ISIS.
Jeanbart’s own cathedral has been bombed six times and is now unusable, and his home has also been struck more than 10 times. “We are facing the rage of an extremist jihad; we may disappear soon,” he said.
“Christian communities,” he said, “are the prime target of the so-called caliphate’s religious cleansing campaign.”
Jeanbart spoke Tuesday at the UK launch of the report “Persecuted and Forgotten? A report on Christians oppressed for their faith 2013-15,” produced by the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need. He described how the Islamic State has been systematically destroying his nation through massacre and destruction, and undermining it through the suppression of basic human rights and freedom.
“The country has been in a flood of blood. They have destroyed our economy, our industry, our churches, everything,” he said.
“We suffer a lot, but the thing that we are suffering most from is that they are taking away our right to be and our right to choose what we want to be,” he said.
Jeanbart said that freedom of religion is crucial for this fight. People must be free to choose their faith with no fear of repercussions, and no one should be condemned because of his faith.
The Archbishop also enumerated some of the recent brutality they have suffered at the hands of the Islamic State, noting that in the last month alone, 50 Christians have been killed, “many of them savagely executed by ISIS.”
“Just a few days ago three of our faithful were kidnapped by ISIL and huge ransoms demanded,” he said. “We tried to found a way to let them go but it was impossible, so they beheaded them.”
Jeanbart praised the diversity of London’s population as an example that mutual respect is possible, whereas in Syria, “Anyone who is not fundamentalist Muslim has no right to live.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron attended Tuesday’s release of the study on Christian persecution, and said: “Every day in countries across the world, Christians are systematically discriminated against, exploited and even driven from their homes because of their faith.”
According to the report, Christianity is fated to disappear from Iraq “possibly within five years” unless the international community offer substantial assistance to the persecuted faithful there.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome