A heart-broken Patriarch’s desperate plea to stop ‘tsunami’ of youth emigration  

Clare Creegan and John Pontifex, ACN International   – Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Montreal/Königstein/Surrey, Tuesday September 2, 2015 – In an open letter to youth, a copy of which was sent to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, one of Syria’s most senior Catholic leaders,  Greek-Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III, has issued an impassioned plea to young people, describing a “tsunami” of youth emigration and begging them to stay.


Referring to “an almost communal wave of youth emigration,” said the exodus was so severe it begged serious questions about the future of the Church in Syria.  “The almost communal wave of youth emigration, especially in Syria, but also in Lebanon and Iraq breaks my heart, wounding me deeply and dealing me a deadly blow,” he stated. “Despite all your suffering, stay! Be patient! Don’t emigrate! Stay for the Church, your homeland, for Syria and its future! Stay! Do stay!”

In this letter, the Patriarch speaks of how the near communal wave of youth emigration, particularly “in Syria (but also in Lebanon and Iraq) breaks my heart, wounding me deeply and dealing me a deadly blow. Given this tsunami of emigration, what future is left for the Church? What will become of our homeland? What will become of our parishes and institutions?

Patriarch H.B. Gregorius III - Gregory III (Laham) (Arabic,غريغوريوس الثالث لحام) (b. December 15, 1933), Patriarch of the Church of Antioch, is the spiritual leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. He was elected patriarch on November 29, 2000, succeeding Maximos V Hakim. Here with a group of youth.

Repeat of the Iraqi crisis?

Given the state of flux in Syria, the patriarch explains, no precise figures are available concerning the country’s Christian population. But, according to conservative estimates, 450,000 of Syria’s pre-2011 Christian population of 1.17 million are either internally displaced or living as refugees abroad.

The Christian population has suffered badly as cities with a high concentration of faithful – including Aleppo and Homs – have seen some of the worst fighting and upheavals. Middle East analysts have warned of Syria experiencing a repeat of the crisis in Iraq where Christian numbers have haemorrhaged from 1 million to less than 300,000 over the past 10 to 15 years.

Encouraging Syria’s Christian youth to persevere in their homeland, Patriarch Gregorios pointed to episodes from the past where the Church quickly recovered after outbreaks of persecution.  He highlighted a revolution in Syria in 1860 involving the killing of thousands of Christians and the destruction of many churches in Damascus Old City before adding:

“Our forebears underwent great difficulties, but they exercised patience and so the Church remained, Christianity remained and the number of Christians even grew after 1860.”

In February 2015, ACN announced 22 new aid projects totaling nearly 3.4 million to help Christians in Syria rebuild their lives, prioritizing help given to places most affected by war, including Aleppo, Homs and Damascus. Projects supported by ACN will benefit thousands of families who remain in Syria, providing food supplies, medicines, rent for housing, as well as heating and electricity.donate




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