A senior Catholic churchman in the Middle East told an audience in Toronto that the Christian community in the Levant, the eastern part of the Mediterranean, is on the verge of extinction.
“The very existence of Eastern Churches, those churches that come from the apostles’ time, is at stake, in danger,” Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan of Syria told the annual conference of the Knights of Columbus, characterizing the region’s Christians as an “endangered species.”
Congress unanimously passed a resolution in March condemning the Islamic State for waging genocide against Christians in Syria and Iraq. Egypt’s Coptic minority, an orthodox Christian church, has also seen a significant spike in Islamist violence. (RELATED: Unanimous Congress Agrees ISIS Committing Genocide Against Christians)
Open Doors, an non-governmental agency that tracks global persecution of Christians, claims that 7.6 million Christians have been displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and reports thousands have been murdered by ISIS fighters.
Younan thanked Western countries for their humanitarian support in recent months, but insisted the current crisis will rage unabated until powerful interests in the West realign their economic and foreign policy priorities in the region. Western leaders often let slip serious human rights abuses in the interest of preserving important alliances or assuring access to oil.
The patriarch said the safety of Christians “is not going to be assured [by the] hypocritical and Machiavellian agenda of the powerful countries and politicians of the West.”
Younan has made comments in this vein before. He offered a harsh assessment of western action in an interview with a French Catholic newspaper in 2015, chastising leaders across the industrialized world. “The West has betrayed us,” he said.
He went on to contest the notion that Islam is not intrinsically violent, decrying imams throughout the region who pervert the Quran and eschew its message of peace.
“If you tell these kids that those verses are literally coming from God, you’ll be able to turn that young man into a beast: since they don’t have exegesis, and they have to memorize those verses, it won’t be easy to prevent them from becoming terrorists or killers,” he told the crowd.
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