Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan.
It is “a big lie” to suggest Islamic State could be defeated with airstrikes, according to the head of the Syriac Catholic Church, who has accused Western governments of betraying Christians in the Middle East.
“All Eastern patriarchs, myself included, have spoken out clearly to the West from the very beginning,” Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan insisted, warning western governments: “Be careful, the situation in Syria is not like that of Egypt, Tunisia or Libya – it’s much more complex, and conflict here will create only chaos and civil war.”
Criticising how the cautioned governments maintained that the rebellion would be short and that Bashar al-Assad’s government would fall within months, he said, “As I predicted, that hasn’t happened, and five years later, innocent people, especially Christians, have no support. The West has betrayed us.”
While French and Russian airstrikes have increased since the Paris and Beirut bombings, the patriarch said these retaliations were ineffective as the well-financed leaders of the so-called Islamic State had infiltrated local populations.
“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,” the Beirut-based patriarch said, castigating how Western politicians, especially in the U.S., Britain and France, appeared to favour “an endless conflict in Iraq and Syria”, while Western media had proved “silent, cowardly and complicit” by failing to “defend truth and justice”.
Although the Syriac Catholic leader praised the Pope for being “a defender of justice” and appealing for solidarity with Middle East Christians, he said threatened Catholic communities needed “not words but deeds”, lamenting that the West “has abandoned Christians to this situation”.
In the United States, meanwhile, Church leaders have challenged political attempts to block refugees from the Middle Eastern crisis from entering the country. Republicans in the House of Representatives won a 289-137 veto-proof majority on a bill blocking Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and governors of at least 30 states have called for an end to Syrian resettlement until security concerns can be addressed in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.
Cardinal O’Malley said “The barbaric attacks in Paris, which demand a strong response and require policies that as best possible prevent recurrence, should not be used to efface the memory of Syrians and others from the Middle East and Africa who are desperately in need of shelter, support and safety.”
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