DETROIT, October 2, 2015 (ChurchMilitant.com) - As Middle Eastern countries such as Syria and Iraq collapse ever more into the hands of violent Islamic terrorists, Christian leaders in the region are crying out for help. However, while hoping for foreign aid and international recognition of their plight, Middle Eastern Church leaders have had to remain largely on their own, as Western powers seem focused entirely on political or economic matters.
Amid the turmoil, ChurchMilitant.com sat down with Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Yonan, leader of the Syriac Catholic Church, to find out what's going on from someone dealing with it firsthand. He is a leader of Syriac Catholics from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and beyond.
He paints a picture of Christian persecution in the Middle East that's worse than many outside the area may care to acknowledge. His flock, he laments, is disappearing by the day, and he is mostly powerless to stop it.
Meanwhile, he believes, those who could stop it don't. In this regard, Patriarch Yonan isn't hesitant to criticize political leaders.
"[W]e can do nothing to stop the exodus of our people," he says, "because we have been abandoned, even betrayed by the Western countries."
"And we really blame our Christian brethren in the West — either in North America or in the European Union — to just ignore us in our own country," the Syrian patriarch continues.
He finds that Western nations are content "to just look to economic opportunism and to keep that politically correct language with the rich countries, the oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, Emirates, etc., and forgetting about our very existence and our forefathers that were there before."
"We risk to lose hope," he says.
Whom specifically does the patriarch deem responsible for contributing to the atrocities taking place in his homeland?
"In particular is the United States and France and Great Britain of the European Union. And other countries, it's very sad to say, they just pander to and obey the powerful countries," says Patriarch Yonan.
He believes the West has abandoned its Christian values, seeking worldly things instead. "Maybe they forgot their principles, their Christian roots and evangelical values, and they just look for money, for opportunism."
"That," he laments, "is very much hurting us."
"This is what we blame the Western countries for, that we will be really abandoned," he repeats. "As I usually say, we've been rather betrayed."
Watch our full interview with Patriarch Yonan here.