21 November 2013 – Paula Slier
As some 450,000 Christians have fled Syria since a civil war erupted two years ago, the Syrian Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic church has called on Christians to stay in Syria and survive a “difficult” future.
“I say to my children, stay in your country, the future will be difficult, but it will be better, God willing,” Syrian Patriarch Gregory Laham told AFP in an interview.
On the eve of a trip to the Vatican for meetings with Pope Francis, Laham urged European countries to not “encourage Syrian Christians to emigrate.”
“I say to the European countries that want to help, help people in difficulty, humanitarian cases but don’t encourage people to emigrate,” he said.
According to the cleric, 450,000 Syrian Christians have been forced from their homes by the civil strife that began in March 2011.
The religious leader said that between 1,000 and 1,200 Christians, both soldiers and civilians, had been killed.
Pope Francis also said the Catholic Church “will not resign” itself to a Middle East without Christians.
“Syria, Iraq, Egypt and other areas of the Holy Land sometimes overflow with tears,” he said on Thursday, calling for “the universal right to lead a dignified life and freely practice one’s own faith to be respected.”
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