Lebanese archbishop sees Paris attacks as West's wake-up call on Syria

"It's time to fight ISIS together with the Syrian government. Only then will we be able to see how to move on in Syria."

By Oliver Maksan

NEW YORK—The terrorist carnage that struck Paris Nov. 13, 2015 was only a matter of time, a ranking Lebanese prelate said."We have always known that ISIS is a danger to the whole world. But Europe hasn't taken it seriously," said Archbishop Issam John Darwish.

"We here in Lebanon feel the pain of the French people. But the French and the world must also feel our pain," the archbishop told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, in a reference to a terrorist attack in Lebanon Nov. 12, 2015, which killed more than 40 people and left hundreds injured.

"Western powers must change their policy in the Syrian conflict and finally open their eyes," the native-born Syrian said, adding: "It's time to fight ISIS together with the Syrian government. Only then will we be able to see how to move on in Syria. We now have to combine forces against the common enemy. I'm sure that this will happen. It would in any case be good for Syria."

"The fundamentalists can't bear the fact that Muslims like those in France are governed by a Christian majority. They believe that things should be precisely the other way round – that Muslims must rule the whole world,” Archbishop Darwish said, warning that, because many French Muslims are at present fighting on the side of the jihadists in Syria, France is still in danger.

He said: "The young men are fighting in Syria. They undergo brainwashing there. They return to Europe and are no longer able to live without struggle. That is very dangerous."

Syrian Christian family supported by Archdiocese of Zahle, L

Archbishop Darwish also expressed concern about the growing flow of refugees from the Middle East heading for Europe. "Europe must watch closely to see who is coming in. ISIS warriors could easily mix in with the refugees."

The prelate continued: "I consider the decision of the European governments to accept so many refugees to be wrong. This has given a reason to many to leave the region, including Christians. It would be better to help the people here in the region. We need them here. And what's more the journey across the sea is very dangerous." Archbishop Darwish argued that there are now what he labelled as safe zones both in neighboring countries and in Syria proper. "In [the Syrian cities of] Homs or Latakia, as well as near the Lebanese border there are safe areas. Many Syrian families who had found refuge with us [in Lebanon] have already returned."

The Melkite Archdiocese of Zahlé, near the Syrian border, is currently supporting 800 Christian refugee families from Syria. "I try to convince the refugees who are with us to stay. If we get more support we will also be more successful," Archbishop Darwish stressed.

Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting the Catholic Church’s work in Lebanon for decades. The financial aid has increased due to the growing number of refugees from Syria. In 2014 this help amounted to more than $1M, for 45 projects, more than half of them involving support for the Christian refugees.

Family of Syrian refugees, supported by Archdiocese of Zahle, Lebanon; ACN photo

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