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Christianity in Syria going the same way as Iraq, patriarch warns

Syrian refugees and other migrants in Greece. Millions have fled the war-torn country (AP)

One of Syria’s most senior Catholic leaders has issued an impassioned plea to young people, begging them to stay, describing it as a “tsunami”.

Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III said the exodus, “an almost communal wave of youth emigration”, raised questions about the future of the Church in Syria.

In an open letter, a copy of which was sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the patriarch said: “The almost communal wave of youth emigration, especially in Syria, but also in Lebanon and Iraq breaks my heart, wounding me deeply and dealing me a deadly blow.

“Given this tsunami of emigration… what future is left for the Church? What will become of our homeland? What will become of our parishes and institutions?”

Recognising the many problems of life in Syria today, the Patriarch said he wanted to “implore” young people to remain.

He stated: “…Despite all your suffering, stay! Be patient! Don’t emigrate! Stay for the Church, your homeland, for Syria and its future! Stay! Do stay!”

At least 450,000 of Syria’s pre-2011 Christian population of 1.17 million are either internally displaced or living as refugees abroad.