World

Bishop Blames Europe For Near Extinction Of Christianity In Syria

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent

A Chaldean bishop in the Syrian city of Aleppo said Europe’s open borders to refugees have contributed to the city’s destruction of Christianity.

Bishop Antoine Audo warned about the extinction of Christianity in warn-torn Aleppo in 2013, before the rise of Islamic State. He bashed Western countries for helping the Christian population flee war and terror, which contributed to a change in society.

“No one cares whether we stay or leave,” he told Agence France-Presse in February 2013. “It does not see the historic importance of our presence.”

During a visit to Germany Tuesday, he announced his fears have become reality. The Christian population has shrunk from 150,000 to “at best” 50,000, according to Audo’s estimates, saying the rich people left for Lebanon, while others fled to the “Valley of the Christians.”

Audo is critical of Europe for offering a way for young Christians to avoid military service by heading north. They leave to work and study, not to save their lives, according to the bishop.

“The third group [of Christians] consists of young people fleeing military service by heading, for example, to Germany to study or to work,” he said at a press conference in Munich.

Audo is now hoping Christianity can maintain some sort of presence in Syria, if and when peace is gained.

“There can be no dictatorship of religion, every human being must be recognized as a human being first and foremost,” Audo said. “Of course I hope that there will also be a vital Christian life in this Syria.”

Aleppo’s Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart warned in October the consequences to Syria if people left for Europe.

“Yes, of course. It harms Syria and harms the refugees … it’s not just a question of accommodating people,” he said in an interview with BBC Radio.

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