Middle East (Iraq, Syria)
Protecting Christians from ‘elimination’
Refugee coordinator says governments must act on behalf of Christians, the extremists’ top target
According to a leading refugee relief coordinator who warns that extremist Islamists are infiltrating groups seeking asylum in Europe – Christians from the Middle East are suffering the most but Western governments are ignoring their plight
Father Khalil Jaar of the Messengers of Peace Association said Christians are being “eliminated” by invading Daesh (ISIS) forces, who, he said, have marked them as their main target.
The Jordan-based priest, who is providing shelter and schooling for thousands flooding into the capital of Amman, said he was critical of Western governments proposing to take in refugees from the main camps for this reason. He emphasised that Christians and other minorities are not given equal opportunity to seek asylum in Europe.
“Whenever [the Islamist groups] seize any territory, one of their first aims is to eliminate the Christian presence. The people most in danger are the Christians.”
Speaking in an interview with ACN, Father Khalil said that some refugees entering Europe are Daesh sympathisers, evidence picked up from his many interviews with asylum seekers and reports received from Syria and Iraq. He expressed that he noticed “a direct link” between the influx of Middle Eastern refugees over the past few months and the Paris terrorist attack last month. Most of the refugees were not asylum seekers, said Father Khalil, but economic migrants in search of a better life.
Most in danger are the Christians
“The West has totally failed to recognize what is going on in the Middle East. Most of the refugees flooding into Europe are people looking for a better life. If they were genuine asylum seekers, they would have accepted to stay in the first available country offering them sanctuary. The real refugees are left far behind. Why is the West not doing more for Christians and other minorities? They are the ones who are suffering the most. If the Christians stay in Syria and Iraq, they risk being eliminated by Islamic extremists and if they seek sanctuary abroad in the main refugee camps, they suffer abuse from those already there.”
Islamist groups are putting extreme pressure on Christians in Syria and Iraq to convert to Islam, pay the Jizya tax or face being killed, said the priest. Such threats were made by invading Islamist forces including the al-Nusra Front, Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham as well as Daesh.
Saying that most of the forces fighting in Syria are from outside the country, Father Jaar said: “Whenever [the Islamist groups] seize any territory, one of their first aims is to eliminate the Christian presence. The people most in danger are the Christians.”
The cleric paid tribute to organizations such as Aid to the Church in Need and other national and international charitable NGOs, saying that Christians arriving in Jordan and elsewhere are totally dependent on their help.
“If ACN didn’t help the Iraqi refugees in Erbil, the Christians would be in a desperate situation.“
Father Jaar said he was told by Joanna Wronecka, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Jordan, this past summer, that there were no grants available to help Iraqi refugees, only Syrians. She said that this was the instruction of the donor countries. Father Khalil’s comment to ACN: “This is discrimination. Both the Iraqi and Syrian refugees are victims of the same violence and intimidation.”
Father Khalil’s work at his parish of Marka, a suburb of Jordan, includes help for 450 Iraqi Christian families – 12 families living in the parish compound, the rest living in rented accommodation partly funded by ACN.
Thanking Aid to the Church in Need, he said: “If ACN didn’t help the Iraqi refugees in Erbil, the Christians would be in a desperate situation.” Jaar also thanked and named the other organizations and the many who have made private donations.
“I want to thank all those who came to our help – in an official way or a personal way. If these organizations did not take care of these Iraqi refugees, they would be abandoned.”
By John Pontifex, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada