Pleas for more decisive action on the part of the West
Calling the war in Syria, and its resultant refugee crisis “a tsunami that has hit the country” a grieved and frustrated-sounding Archbishop Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East for the Syriac Catholic Church, had some hard words for the West during a pastoral visit to Ottawa, Canada.
Noting that over 100,000 Syrians have died — and millions more have become refugees, displaced from their homeland —Younan charged Europe and North America with a lack of concern for the Syrian crises until the image of Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body was seen around the world. Europe and North America, he said, seemed largely unmoved by the crimes against humanity being suffered by Syria and its people. “The western world is not only indifferent,” he said, but “[through its unresponsiveness] it is an accomplice in continuing that type of violence and killing.”
Younan said that blame for the rise of ISIS can be laid at the feet of the United States, France and Great Britain, who he charged with “fomenting the violence under the pretext of a kind of Arab Spring.” He called on Western governments to commit ground troops to the effort to repel and defeat the Islamic State, noting that airstrikes are ineffective where ISIS lives among the citizenry.
The Gulf States also came into criticism from the Archbishop, who noted that nations of great wealth and vast, unpopulated territory — particularly Saudi, Arabia — have not used their resources to provide temporary shelter and humanitarian aid to their fellow Arabs, forcing refugees into European exile.
For Arab Christians, said the Archbishop, the situation in the region has been catastrophic: “At least 50 percent of Syria’s Christians have been displaced; 25 percent have gone into exile and left the country.” The kidnapping of 200 Christian families and Father Jacques Mourad, of St. Elias Monastery, has particularly “devastated” his community. Transferred to ISIS via local Muslims, those Christians still remaining in the area have become subject to the “jizya” tax which permits them to stay in their homes, as long as they pay a steep fee, and then comply with numerous restrictions against the practice of their faith and the visibility of their belief. “People are losing hope,” Younan said, suggesting that most Syrians would prefer “to be able to stay in his or her homeland.”
Elizabeth Scalia is Editor-in-Chief of the English edition of Aleteia