TWO separate appeals have been made to the international community to take action to help the remaining Christians in the Middle East, at a time of mass emigration.
A Syrian bishop has warned that two-thirds of Christians living in Aleppo have already left; and two RC archbishops visiting the Holy Land found that many families had migrated because of a lack of confidence in the future.
The Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo, Mar Antoine Audo, was quoted by Vatican Radio as saying that barely 50,000 of the city’s previously 150,000-strong Christian community remained in the city.
Bishop Audo urged the international community to provide help to enable Christians to carry on living in their homes. He said that the willingness of Germany and other European countries to offer shelter to refugees had resulted in a “massive exodus” of people, including Christians.
“Those who were able to leave”, Bishop Audo said, “have already left; others are trying to leave, especially our young men, who fear military service and don’t want to take part in a senseless war that brings only destruction.”
Life in Aleppo, Bishop Audo continued, had become “unbearable” for the population. Those with money had fled, while “the middle classes have become poor, and the poor are now living in total misery.” The city has been without water or electricity for more than two months. His church was built over a well, the Bishop said, and “we try to distribute water to the population as much as we can.”
The horrors facing Christians in Syria began suddenly, and over the past four years have become acute. The difficulties facing Christians in the Holy Land are less severe, but have endured for decades.
In a statement after a recent visit to the region, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and the RC Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Eamon Martin, presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of England and Wales, and Ireland, respectively said that they had “sensed the isolation that Christian communities are experiencing.”
The communities feared “being neglected or even forgotten by their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. We heard accounts of so many families who have already left because of fear or lack of confidence in a prosperous future for their children and grandchildren.”
The two Archbishops said that they wanted to “encourage the faithful in our countries to keep the Christian people of the Holy Land in their prayers, and also support them . . . as pilgrims to the holy places”. They saw pilgrimages as “visible and concrete ways of showing solidarity”.