Seven years of ongoing civil war in Syria resulted in the expansion of violent Islamic extremism which deeply compromised the Christian population there, who have been persecuted because of their faith.
The situation is more than complex in the whole region, so it is indispensable to take into account the specific situation from country to country, nation to nation. It is more than clear that Christians have to have a place in the Middle East and Europe must remain at their side in their struggles and help them to return to their homes and rebuild their lives.
To discuss the situation of Christian minorities, the EPP Group Working Group on Intercultural and Religious Dialogue organised a conference on Oriental Christians in the Mashreq Region, where Mons. Jean-Clément Jeanbart, Archbishop of the Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Aleppo, addressed MEPs to set out the consequences of the conflicts in the Middle East on Christian communities.
COMECE, Open Doors, the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Liaison Office of the Orthodox Church to the European Union were also present at the hearing, which was hosted by György Hölvényi and Jan Olbrycht MEPs, both Co-Chairs of the Working Group on Intercultural and Religious Dialogue.
The Archbishop highlighted that the EU should listen to facts and not the fake news distributed by fundamentalists on Syria. He insisted that we really need to listen to local citizens because they are facing a civil war, which produced between 400,000 and 500,000 deaths and over 4.8 million registered Syrian refugees.
Encouraging peace and economic development in the Middle East
Mons. Jean-Clément Jeanbart gave his views on what the international community could do to improve the situation.
He said that the European Parliament can promote political solutions and peace-building using its influence. The Archbishop underlined that only concrete actions could create peace and security, such as education for youth, reconstruction and rebuilding infrastructure, and good relations and dialogue with non-Christian citizens.
The EU, the Member States and global players need to undertake more serious efforts in diplomacy, peacemaking and humanitarian assistance György Hölvényi
György Hölvényi emphasised that “Christianity must be preserved in its birthplace and this is our priority in the EPP Group. The EU, the Member States and global players need to undertake more serious efforts in diplomacy, peacemaking and humanitarian assistance”.
Mairead McGuinness MEP, First Vice-President of the European Parliament and responsible for dialogue with religions, said that the European Parliament can provide platforms for these communities to meet, and also offer a great opportunity to listen to churches and NGOs from the region. The EPP Group intends to help Christians rebuild their life in the Middle East, she added.
Cristian Dan Preda MEP pointed out that Christians and other minorities in Syria won’t go back to their homeland if there is no safety and security.
There is no solution without the involvement of neighbouring countries, he added.
Michèle Alliot-Marie MEP highlighted the differences between the Member States' attitudes on this question. But the main objective is to help Christians to stay at home or return to their homeland and to encourage economic development, for which concrete projects are needed.
The MEPs expressed deep sadness that the persecution of Christians is worse today than ever before. Concluding, MEP Jan Olbrycht stressed the importance of keeping this issue high on the EU agenda.