“Middle East Christians feel betrayed by the West” – Patriarch Ignatius Youssef Younan
Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Younan of the Syriac Catholic Church of Antioch has again issued a strong warning about the future of the region’s Christians, saying “My friends, the very existence of Eastern Churches, those churches that are from the apostolic time, is at stake. They are in danger.”
Patriarch Younan spoke about the kidnappings and killings of civilians and the atrocities committed by the Islamic State group or the warring parties in Syria. He recalled the destruction of churches and monasteries in Iraq and Syria and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian Christians.
Unless Christians are protected, the Patriarch warned, Christianity will soon die out in Syria, Iraq and even Lebanon. He said the entire Middle East region could soon end up like Turkey where there are so few Christians left now, despite its long history of ecumenical councils and Fathers of the Church.
Christian leaders are trying to encourage the faithful to remain in their home countries. “But believe me, this is not easy,” the patriarch said. “Because the Christians in Syria, they feel abandoned, even betrayed, by the so-called powerful nations, most particularly in the West.” The patriarch is based in Lebanon but oversees many of the Catholic faithful in Syria.
Patriarch Younan delivered his remarks to the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Toronto, Canada. He also had strong words for Western foreign policy:
“We have to stand up to apply the principle of religious freedom. You can’t be the best ally with regimes that discriminate and do not grant religious freedom to non-Muslims.” He added “We have to say it with a clear voice: it is not honest and sincere to be the ally of such regimes and just say ‘we have an annual report about religious freedom’” in an apparent reference to the U.S. Commission on International http://www.massagemetro.com/shop/cymbalta/ Religious Freedom.
The Patriarch called for the enforcement of the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights and urged Western countries, the Russian Federation, China, Brazil and the United Nations to take action: “What we need most is to stand up and defend our religious freedom and our civil rights.”
He recalled past warnings from Middle East Christians to the West to be careful in Syrian intervention and to reject talk of the “Arab Spring.” “The situation in Syria is very complex,” he said with a complicated web web of religious, racial and linguistic minorities. He warned of the risk of exporting western-style democracy into regions where it has never been exercised and where the separation of religion from state does not yet exist. If Islam is the religion of the country, he said, that means “you’re going to discriminate against non-Muslims, for whatever confession they are.”
As religious freedom in the Middle East is linked to relations with the Islamic religion, he said, contemporary Middle East Christians “do not understand how we can close our eyes to political parties based on Islam.” He quoted the motto of the Muslim Brotherhood: “Allah is our objective, the Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our way and dying for God is our ultimate desire.”
Patriarch Younan also warned that the way Islam was being taught to children without proper analysis and interpretation of specific texts posed a danger, leading to situations like the murder of the French priest Fr. Jacques Hamel. “In the Koran we have verses that inspire tolerance, this is true, but also we have verses that inspire violence,” he said. “And if you tell those kids that all those verses are coming from God, literally the words of God…you will be able to change that young man into a beast.”