Syriac Patriarch: US Bishops Should Defend ‘Human Rights, Religious Freedom and the Truth’ to Muslim Majority Countries

By Lauretta Brown | July 22, 2016 | 10:22pm EDT
Women attend a prayer at al-Zaytoun Roman Catholic Church in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013. (AP Photo)

( – Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Younan of the Syriac Catholic Church of Antioch told the National Catholic Register on Thursday that U.S. bishops and Western governments need to “stand up for the values of the Founding Fathers, defending human rights, religious freedom and the truth, while talking to those countries where Muslims make the majority.”

“I keep telling the U.S. bishops, ‘I thank you for your humanitarian aid, but it is not really what we need,’” the patriarch said. “We need them to stand up for the values of the Founding Fathers, defending human rights, religious freedom and the truth, while talking to those countries where Muslims make the majority.”

He thanked institutions in the Catholic Church in the U.S. that “help our people stay [in the Middle East] and keep going as Eastern Churches of the apostolic time,” but added that Catholics have to “tell the truth, beginning with the elected people and the media.”

“We need Catholics to stand up — no more silent majority; since you live in a democratic country, you have to tell the truth” he said.

Younan also said Western governments should confront Muslim-majority governments over promotion of violence in the Quran.

“A Muslim has to learn the Quran literally. Each letter of the Quran is the word of God, and if you have people memorizing verses like ‘Go and kill the infidels’ — and those who do not say, ‘Allahu Akbar’ [God is great], or ‘There is one God, Allah, and there is one prophet, Muhammad,’ are the infidels, this is the problem,” he said.

He also spoke of the 50,000 Syriac Catholics who lived in the city of Mosul, saying, “they are all gone, uprooted from their ancestral lands, by the Daesh invasion.”

“They have been waiting to go back [to their homes], but it seems that it’s not going to be soon,” he said of the displaced Syriac Catholics. “Their morale is way down.”

The patriarch also complained of the West’s influence in the Syrian civil war, calling the situation “much more complex than in Tunisia or Egypt or Libya.”

“Even Catholic leaders [in the United States and Western Europe], lured by the media and your hypocritical politicians, would tell us [Christian leaders in Syria]: ‘The Syrian regime has to go,’ assuming it was a matter of months,” which Younan called inappropriate, because “you have no right to interfere in an independent country that is still recognized by the U.N.”

“Western politicians said, ‘We have to export democracy,’ but what kind of democracy do you export to a country that has never known the separation of religion and state?” the patriarch asked. “If you don’t have that separation, you will have no democracy, and you will end up denying the rights of non-Muslims. What kind of democracy is that?”

This is not the first time the Syriac patriarch has voiced displeasure with the role of Western governments in the Syrian civil war.

In November, he told an Egyptian Catholic magazine, Le Messager, that "all Eastern patriarchs, myself included, have spoken out clearly to the West from the very beginning: Be careful, the situation in Syria is not like that of Egypt, Tunisia or Libya -- it's much more complex, and conflict here will create only chaos and civil war.”

"They listened and responded: No, the Assad regime will fall in a few months,” he said. “As I predicted, that hasn't happened, and five years later, innocent people, especially Christians, have no support. The West has betrayed us."

Younan, a native of Syria, served 14 years as bishop of the New Jersey-based Diocese of Our Lady of Deliverance for Syriac Catholics in the United States and Canada. In January 2009, he was elected patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church.

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