Responding to Kerry, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Laham says war is taking place in Syria, not genocide

Responding to Kerry, [Melkite Catholic] Patriarch Laham says war is taking place in Syria, not genocide

Gregory III criticises the US Secretary’s claim because it is “no good” for Syria’s ethnic and religious groups. For the bishop, it is necessary not to link religion and war; otherwise, matter will be worse. What is needed is more work on peace and coexistence. Syrian bishops call on the faithful to pray for the success of the Geneva talks.

[To paraphrase Shakespeare: Genocide by any other name would smell as rotten]


Damascus (AsiaNews) – US Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks about the Islamic State’s “genocide” against Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims “are not helpful to the ethnic and religious groups present in Syria,” said Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the prelate does not mince his words about America’s top diplomat. “The words come late, and bring bitterness and ill will between the various groups. This is no good.”

Responding to appeals by Christian and other activist groups and organisations, in the United States and elsewhere, the US Secretary of State used the word ‘genocide’ for the first time to describe the violence carried out by Daesh (Arabic acronym for the Islamic State] in Iraq and Syria. In his view, the latter is “genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions”.

Gregory III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, has always been critical of the intervention by the Western (and regional) powers, first in Iraq and then in the Syria, which have exacerbated the conflict.

“We must avoid labelling religion as a cause of war,” he said. “Military interventions as well as economic and political interests are the cause of wars, whilst religions are exploited as a tool and a pretext.”

For the Melkite patriarch, Kerry’s stance “will not favour Christians”; on the contrary, it helps making matters worse, generating “animosity between groups, Sunnis vs Shias, Christians vs Muslims”.

Russia’s intervention has shown the ineffectiveness of US action. Perhaps for this reason, Washington is trying to regain some credibility and ground with these words in Christian eyes. However, for Gregory III, “it is a wrong approach because now is a time to work for peace and coexistence, not generate even more divisions.”

The problem is that “the great powers like the United States have lost their credibility.” At present, “there is more mistrust among peoples”.

For this reason, Syrians bishops have called on the faithful to “pray for the ongoing talks in Geneva” that they may “yield results and be harbingers of peace.”

For the patriarch, “emigration is the biggest danger”. He warns though not “to overstate the numbers and statistics. We do not know how many are abroad, how many are internal migrants, how many leave and then come back.”

Lastly, “As a Syrian Church, we have many projects and are grateful to those who are helping us to revive life in the country and give a future to its people. As the pope put it, we should never let the flame of hope go out.”

Conflict in Syria began in March 2011 with a popular protest against President Bashar al-Assad, eventually morphing into a regional and international conflict involving extremist and jihadi groups.

The war has claimed so far the lives of 270,000 people, generating one of the most serious humanitarian crises in history, with 4.6 million Syrians forced outside the country in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Hundreds of thousands more have tried to reach Europe, with countless lives lost in the attempt to cross the Mediterranean.

Altogether, some 11 million people have bene displaced.

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2 comments on “Responding to Kerry, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Laham says war is taking place in Syria, not genocide

  1. Both our New-World-Order House of Representatives and our professional gigolo pro-death pseudo-Catholic SS Kerry agreed to call it genocide, but a Catholic Patriarch pooh-poohs it. Not that our gov’t resolution would have done anything, but it’s now guaranteed to do nothing if our evil bishops place the idolatry of ecumenism ahead of protecting their flock. Ditto the evil pope comparing rapist rag heads to our suffering Lord.

    The Obama – Francis – Merkel – Putin – Castro – ISIS fix is in. We’re being phased out.

  2. Christian ‘genocide’: blame the Islamic State, but also the US

    US Secretary of State John Kerry called for an international probe into the Islamist group that has massacred Yazidis, Christians, and Shias in Syria and Iraq. US foreign policy however contributed to the rise of the Islamic State (IS) group by marginalising pro-Saddam Hussein Sunnis in Iraq, by “containing” it without fighting IS, and by selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, which ended up in IS’s hands in Syria. Iraq is now the second country in the world in terms of anti-Christian persecution.

    Bernardo Cervellera

    Rome (AsiaNews) – US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the Islamic state (IS) group has committed genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shias in Syria and Iraq. In view of this, he called for an independent international investigation and criminal charges for those thought to be responsible for the atrocities.

    In the summer of 2014, IS fighters coming from Syria seized Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, forcing Christians to choose between fleeing, converting to Islam, or pay an exorbitant protection tax (jizya). More than 100,000 Christians, terrified by the massacres committed by radical Islamic militias, fled to Kurdistan.

    In August 2014, it was the turn of the Yazidis on Mount Sinjar, near the border with Turkey. Deemed “pagan” and “devil worshipers”, their fate was death. Hundreds of men and young people were slain. Women and girls, even the very young, were either killed or used as sex slaves, or sold as slaves in the markets.

    In his statement, Kerry also mentioned the killing of Christians in Libya, as well as the murder of thousands of Shias in Syria and Iraq (considered heretics by radical Sunnis). This comes a few days after a vote in Congress designated IS’s crimes as “genocide”.

    This is only the second time that a US administration has declared a genocide during a conflict. The previous was in 2004 for the Darfur.

    This could lead to action by the UN Security Council and bolster international resolve against IS.

    However, Kerry has omitted to say that the United States has contributed to IS’s genocide, if not directly, at least indirectly.

    It is no secret that IS emerged after the US under General Petraeus purged pro-Saddam Hussein Sunni elements out of Iraqi society, forcing them to flee into Syria, from where they made their way back to Iraq in 2014.

    By excluding scores of officials (generals, but also judges, soldiers, bureaucrats, etc.) from the old regime, the United States created an environment favourable to IS’s rise. Now Saddam Hussein’s generals are back, well prepared, in command of genocidal troops.

    Nor is it a secret that US ally Saudi Arabia with Qatar and Kuwait have given economic and military support to groups opposed to Bashar al Assad, who were overwhelmed by IS and forced to give up their most advanced technological weapons, bought from the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, etc.

    Nor is it a secret that the United States, despite leading an international coalition that fought (and is fighting) IS, has preferred to “contain” IS in Syria, whilst fighting it in Iraq. Only after Russia intervened did the US-led coalition take some decisive action.

    Open Doors, a Protestant NGO, lists the 50 worst persecutors of Christians. North Korea tops the list, Iraq is 2nd, Afghanistan is 4th, Syria is 5th, and Libya is 10th. Except for the first, all of them are countries where the United States intervened militarily with international coalitions.

    In 2004, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was ranked 32nd; a decade ago, Syria was ranked 47th; Libya was 22nd; and Afghanistan was 11th.

    According to the latest data, more than 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2015 – almost twice as many as in 2014.

    Thus, if IS is to be held accountable for genocide, the same should apply to its “collaborators”, more concerned about their own strategic or economic interests than the fate of the peoples with whom they come into contact.

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