Syriac Catholic Patriarch: ‘You Can’t Imagine How Bad the Conflict Is’

by Church Militant  •  •  October 3, 2015   

"Perhaps this is the largest human exodus since the Second World War"

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DETROIT, October 3, 2015 ( - Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Yonan, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syrians for the Syriac Catholic Church, has a message for the United States and other Western powers: Your foreign policy is wrong.

In a recent interview with, the patriarch tried to convey just how horrific the situation on the ground is in his homeland, the birthplace of the Faith.

"You can't imagine how bad the conflict is, the sectarian war," he told us. "The country more than half destroyed, its archaeological and cultural patrimony is already also mostly gone, and billions displaced, hundreds of thousands killed."

Trying to put it in perspective, he said, "Perhaps this is the largest human exodus since the Second World War."

As Vladimir Putin sends forces into Syria to combat rebels against the government, Patriarch Yonan's home country is now in the middle of increasing international tension, especially between the United States and Russia. The latter's approach, however, is more understandable to the patriarch, at least relatively speaking.

"[R]egarding the position of the international countries, let's say, the Western countries and Russia and China, of course Russia was more understanding of our situation," Patriarch Yonan said, explaining "that if the sectarian wars will go on, we create a kind of Islamic terrorism that will spread very easily to other countries as it is now in the Middle East and even to Europe, and therefore even to Russia."

As the predicament worsens, one thing that isn't helping, he insists, is the West's long-held strategy in the Middle East. That strategy, as President Obama has recently elucidated, is a broad, arguably idealistic focus on democracy and human rights — often at the expense of pragmatic goals.

The United States has for years been helping "moderate" Syrian rebels fight against the government of Bashar al-Assad. This has contributed to the region's instability.

"[S]ince the beginning, this geopolitical agenda of the West was wrong," the patriarch exclaimed, "and we heard many times from some officials in the government in the West as well as Church leaders that regarding Syria as with Iraq, they were following the wrong lecture of the events since the beginning."

"And now," he said, "those who have been accomplices with this kind of, let's say, destruction, devastation, it's very sad to say, they don't want to try to find a kind of repair or to re-examine their politics."

Thus, Patriarch Yonan believes, Western governments proceed to advance a self-interested agenda with the help of "an agglomerate media that doesn't help in resolving politically situations in Syria and in Iraq."

Watch our full interview with Patriarch Yonan here.


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