His Beatitude Ignatius Younan III, Patriarch of the Syriac Catholics worldwide, addressed a group of 30 representatives of European NGOs gathered to hear about the situation of Christians in Syria and Iraq after the departure of Daesh.

Having closely followed the EU policy toward Syria, he expressed hope to soon see an end to the sanctions causing such suffering to the Syrian citizens who, at the moment, completely depend on Catholic charitable organizations for their every need.

In the meeting co-hosted by Aid to the Church in Need and the Commission of European Bishops’ Conferences (COMECE), Patriarch Younan asked the participants, all witnesses to close to six years of war in Syria, to help his people “to be free of the three Ps: paternalism, pandering and profiteering” as he believes Syriac Catholics have been victimized for a long time by external forces. “We have been a loyal community serving the country where we were born, fully endowed citizens. We are the indigenous population”, said His Beatitude, “but because we do not have our own militias or territorial ambitions everyone thinks we agree with everything or we are easy to overrun. For us it is a matter of survival.  If it was not for the Church organizations such as Aid to the Church in Need we would be about to disappear”.

It comes after reports that up to two-thirds of Syria’s pre-2011 Christian population had fled within five years – down to 500,000 – with governments and parliaments accusing ISIS of genocide against Church communities and Yazidis. 

Patriarch Younan was accompanied by Archbishop Antoine Chahda of Aleppo, who described the situation in the city these days. “No more missiles, and it is quiet, but that does not mean the war is over. I mean that the signs of the destruction of the entire life of Aleppo are visible and painful, such as the empty factories where the rebels and their supporters stole all the machinery. We need the industrial leaders to come back and produce, to give a solid base to the reconstruction”.

Both Church leaders insisted for an end to the  economic sanctions, and asked the help of the NGOs present to remind the EU authorities that the high-level politicians do not suffer the consequences, but the thousands of orphans and widows that this war has left do.

Syria is a priority country for ACN aid with pastoral help and emergency support being rolled out in cities and towns al over the country. In Aleppo, thousands of people are receiving emergency food, shelter (rental costs), hot water (electricity subsidy) and up to 2,200 Christian families in the city are receiving medical aid.

This Christmas the charity is providing gifts for 1,500 Christian children in Aleppo including a hat, socks, trousers, a shirt and a pair of winter shoes. In azizieh, a mainly Christian district of Aleppo, ACN is helping with running costs for Our Lady’s secondary School which was bombed several times, and the Lord’s Care Orphanage, as well as repairs to the Al-Yarmouk Sports Centre, damaged by shells. ACN is also providing shelter for 340 families in towns and villages in southern Syria.