By Mairead McArdle
Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, head of the Syriac Catholic Church, part of the See of Antioch, which traces its origins to St. Peter. (Vatican Radio)
(CNSNews.com) — Western media have been “silent, cowardly and complicit” with the persecution of Christians by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), said Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, the head of the Syrian Catholic Church, in a recent interview.
“This is not defending truth and justice, this is bowing down to those who pay and remaining silent,” Younan told Le Messager, an online Egyptian Catholic magazine, on Nov. 18.
“Innocent people, especially Christians, have no support. The West has betrayed us.”
The Syriac patriarch said that American, British, French and other Western politicians seem to want “an endless conflict in Iraq and Syria.”
“Western democracies have conspired against Syria and produced the destruction of the nation’s infrastructure, the demolition of houses, towns, villages, monuments and archaeological sites,” Younan said. “This is the result of a foolish politics and of a conspiracy, under the pretext of bringing democracy to the region.”
“We Christians are not able to live in this chaos that produces militias, armed gangs, terrorist groups and Islamic parties. But when we maintain a firm stand against these phenomena, then the West accuses us of being dictatorial,” the patriarch said.
“All Eastern patriarchs, myself included, have spoken out clearly to the West from the very beginning: Be careful, the situation in Syria is not like that of Egypt, Tunisia or Libya,” Younan noted. “It’s much more complex, and conflict here will create only chaos and civil war.”
“They listened and responded: ‘No, the Assad regime will fall in a few months.’ As I predicted, that hasn’t happened,” he continued.
Patriarch Younan said Syrian Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, are now “trapped in a terrible situation” between “criminal gangs called ISIS and other terrorist groups who use Islam as an excuse to ‘purify’ areas under their control in the name of religion, and Muslims scholars who tell us that Islam is alien to these facts.”
Western nations wanted to establish democracy in the Middle East after the 2003 occupation of Iraq, but Christians in Syria “understood the horror of the situation,” Younan said. “Since, there’s no real separation of religion from the state, our nations do not easily accept democracy,” he pointed out.
Younan, a native of Syria, served 14 years as bishop of the New Jersey-based Diocese of Our Lady of Deliverance for Syriac Catholics in the United States and Canada. In January 2009, he was elected patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church.
The patriarch called for solidarity with Middle East Christians amidst the chaos, saying Christians in the area need “not words, but deeds.”
He commended Pope Francis as “a defender of justice,” and shared his sadness for the seven Syriac Catholics from two families, including four children who drowned Nov. 17 travelling from Turkey to Greece.
“It is so sad to notice that all this is happening under the eyes of the so-called developed and powerful Western countries,” Younan told Catholic News Service on Nov. 18.
On Monday, the Syrian Christian town of Sadad once again became a war zone as a Syriac Christian militia scrambled to keep the area out of the hands of Islamic State jihadists. Sixty percent of Sadad’s 12,000 residents have fled to other Christian towns in the province, such as Fayruza and Yazdal.
“It’s a shame the West has abandoned Christians to this situation,” Patriarch Younan lamented,