Church leaders of the Middle East appeal for help from the international community

The picture is from Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II's first visit to Sweden.

The patriarchs of the Syriac (Aramean) churches, and other Christian leaders have recently commented on the extremely challenging situation they find themselves in, and all are appealing for help from the outside world.

The patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Ignatius Aphrem II, recently attended a British conference with parliamentarians, diplomats and other religious leaders discussing humanitarian work. There he called on the British government to lift their economic sanctions against Syria, which he claimed “prolongs the suffering of innocent civilians”.

The apostolic nuncio in Syria, Cardinal Mario Zenari, also spoke about the situation and noted that the people of the country have begun to lose hope of ever seeing peace and their lives back to normal. Even though the country has seen a reduction in bombings, there is a “poverty bomb” that causes hunger, malnutrition and increased spread of disease, and he said that the Catholic and Orthodox churches did what they could to give hope back to the people.

In Lebanon, which is also a country in severe crisis, the patriarch of the Syriac Maronite Church has also spoken out focusing on the plight of Christians at an ecumenical conference. Patriarch Bechara Rai likened the Church in the Middle East to a ship in a sea threatened by strong winds and waves, which in this case are wars and crises of a political, economic or humanitarian nature.

More than half of Lebanon’s population today live below the poverty line and a quarter were out of work even before the pandemic and the Beirut explosion that left 300,000 homeless.