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Syrian patriarch: 'stop extremists from entering Europe'
Patriarch Aphrem warned that Christianity is at risk of disappearing from Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
By John Pontifex
NEW YORK (Aug. 30, 2016)—A leading Syrian prelate urged Europe to take tougher action to stop fundamentalists from entering its territory.
Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, the Damascus-based leader of Syriac Orthodox Church, warned of the threat posed by a new generation of radicalized Muslims bent on imposing Sharia law as widely as possible. While many Muslim refugees entering Europe are peace-loving moderates, he added, Western governments “must be better prepared” to ferret out jihadists.
In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the international Catholic charity, the Patriarch called for a strict screening process of migrants and refugees seeking to enter Europe. “I do not know how this should happen but it is necessary and should be done without infringing the rights of those who are peace-loving and law-abiding,” he said.
He also called on Western governments to insist permission be granted for the construction of churches in Muslim nations, even as new mosques are built in Europe.
Patriarch Aphrem warned that Christianity is at risk of disappearing from Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. He cited the example of Turkey, whose Christian population a century ago stood at more than 3.5 million but has dwindled to only 150,000 today.
He said that 80 percent of Christians in Iraq had left the country since the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein in 2003; and that 50 percent of Syria’s Christians are either internally displaced or are living as refugees abroad.
ACN is providing food, shelter, medicine and other essential assistance to Christians, other minorities as well as Muslims throughout the region. The Patriarch said: “The work of ACN is crucial and makes a big difference. Thousands upon thousands of Christians depend on the help they are receiving from ACN and other organizations.”
Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II; ACN photo