(CNSNews.com) – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres expressed concern Tuesday over the exodus of Christians in the Middle East because of the conflict in Syria and Iraq.
Guterres said that speaking “as a Christian,” he was “worried about what’s happening in the Middle East.” Guterres referenced the Middle Eastern origins of Christianity and said a religious cleansing of Christians from that part of the world would be “an amputation in the DNA of Christianity and in the DNA of the Middle East.”
“Allow me to speak here also as a Christian, which I probably shouldn’t,” Guterres said at a discussion of the Syrian refugee crisis at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. “I must say that I’m worried about what’s happening in the Middle East.
“People in my country, and of course I cannot mention the United States because it’s a young nation except for the populations that were here already long ago, but in my country (Portugal), people were still worshipping the trees and the rivers; and the Christians in the Middle East, in Alexandria, in Antioch, in Caesarea…they were discussing whether the Holy Ghost was coming from the Father or from the Father and the Son,” said Guterres.
“I mean that is where Christianity was born, and to see these communities at the risk of being eradicated from that area is something I consider with horror. So independently of the importance of the resettlement program, I think that the international community must do everything possible to create the conditions for these communities to be able not to be religiously cleansed, I mean from that part of the world that would be to really do an amputation in the DNA of Christianity and in the DNA of the Middle East.
“This has nothing to do with the support to individuals that need resettlement, but we need also to mobilize the efforts of the international community in order to preserve those communities that are in the very origin of Christianity as Christianity exists today,” Guterres concluded.
Pope Francis also expressed concern over the exodus of Christians from the Middle East in a meeting Monday with Chaldean Catholic bishops from the region.
“Today the situation in your lands of origin is gravely compromised by the fanatical hatred sown by terrorism, which continues to cause a great hemorrhage of faithful who leave the lands of their fathers, where they grew up firmly rooted in the furrow of tradition,” the Pope said.
“I pray that Christians will not be forced to abandon Iraq and the Middle East,” he added. “I think especially of the sons and daughters of your Church, and their rich traditions.”