Saturday, February 01, 2014

Syrian prelate hopes refugees will remain in Middle East

Syria’s leading Catholic prelate has voiced misgivings about refugee programs that are helping Christian families from Syria resettle in the West, saying that it is better if they remain in the Middle East.

Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham, who doubles as president of the Syrian bishops’ conference, said that the flight of Syrian refugees threatens to aggravate the overall exodus of Christians from the Middle East.

“The danger is that if they leave the Middle East, they will never go back,” he said.

The Melkite Patriarch said that he could readily sympathize with the Christians who choose to leave the region. “Of course, we cannot decide for ourselves what response our people should make,” he acknowledged, adding that “the suffering is great.”

However, Patriarch Gregory suggested that aid programs should concentrate on helping people to remain near their homes. 

“It is better to help the people within the country or the region, and not invite them to go outside,” he said. “There is more that can be done locally,” he said.

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