Archbishop Ignatius Joseph III Younan

Archbishop Ignatius Joseph III Younan

September 14, 2015

OTTAWA - The patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church says the West should end the war in Syria and Iraq so refugees and displaced people can go home.

"We hope everyone is able to stay in his or her homeland," said Archbishop Ignatius Joseph III Younan, patriarch of Antioch and All the East for the Syrians.

People living permanently in exile is not a solution, he said in a Sept. 7 interview.

But if the bloody conflict continues, and people see Europe granting refugee status, more people will risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean or risk being killed traveling over land, he said.

"That poor little boy with the red shirt washed up on the beach in Turkey, reminded people of what's going on in Syria," he said. "It's a tsunami that has hit the country."

But until that heartbreaking picture went around the world, the suffering in Syria and Iraq caused by the Islamic State - beheadings, rape and burning of people alive - received little attention, said Younan.

"The Western world is not only indifferent, it is an accomplice in continuing that type of violence and killing."

More than 100,000 have been killed, millions have fled the country or are living displaced within it, he said. Younan blamed Western nations, especially the United States, Great Britain and France, for "fomenting the violence under the pretext of a kind of Arab Spring."

He called it a "fantasy" that the West was helping "modernized, civilized rebels" opposing dictatorship.

The patriarch also said the Gulf States have not taken in any refugees, but are also funding the Islamic State.

Saudi Arabia, he said, could easily have provided temporary settlement for refugees until they could return home.

Circumstances for Christians in the region have continued to worsen, to the point of "catastrophe."

A year ago, the IS invaded Mosul in Iraq forcing 140,000 Christians to flee their homeland for refuge in Kurdistan, he said. "They are in a dire situation."