According to the Archbishop of Aleppo, when Westerners open their doors to Syrian refugees, it hurts, rather than helps, their cause. The solution lies not in welcoming more refugees, but in helping resolve the situation back home so they will not need to leave.
Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart said he is “not happy” with the news that Canada has welcomed about 25,000 Syrian refugees in the past few months, despite its good intentions.
“We’re not happy when we see the Canadian government moving refugees and facilitating their integration. It hurts us. A lot,” he said.
Jeanbart, who has served as Melkite archbishop of Aleppo since 1995, stated that his real wish is to see the Syrian population, especially the Christians, stay in Syria.
The migration crisis is gutting Syria of its native population, particularly its Christians. “More than half of the city’s population left over the last four or five years,” Jeanbart said.
“It’s a glimpse of the hardships happening back home. To understand the tragedy that struck our city, we have to look at its story, what it was in the past. The city is 8,000 years old. It gave civilization to the world,” he said.
Jeanbart said the Canadian government should devote more time and energy to helping the Syrian population stay in Syria, and less to figuring out what to do with Syrian migrants.
“It has to help them stay where they are, to have the bare necessities, but also to find peace. And to get it over with these rebels, these terrorists, and drive both sides to talk. To find a political solution,” he said.
Jeanbart’s words echoed those of his counterpart from the Chaldean church in Aleppo, Bishop Antoine Audo, who reported recently that in only five years of conflict and persecution, the Christian population in Syria has been reduced by two-thirds, from 1.5 million to only 500,000 today.
Bishop Audo said that the situation in Aleppo is even worse than in the rest of Syria, with only a quarter of the Christian population remaining since the beginning of Syria’s civil war in 2011.
Devastated by the fighting and persecuted by Islamic extremists, the number of Christians in Aleppo has fallen from 160,000 to just 40,000. Most of the Christians population lives in areas controlled by the government.
Audo also said that Aleppo’s three cathedrals have been almost completely destroyed, and that the local population lives under constant fear and hardship.
“You cannot imagine the dangers that we face every day,” he said.
In February, Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill released a historic joint statement in which they denounced the emptying of the Middle East of Christians in the very cradle of the Christian faith, at the hands of Islamic radicals who have driven them from their homes.
It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.
In the home of the Islamic State, Christians have been killed by the thousands, and millions of others have been displaced.
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