As the conflict in Syria reached new depths of depravity this week, the Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan, expressed his frustration with Western powers in an interview with Doreen Abi Raad of Catholic New Service in Beirut. Describing the morale of Syria's Christians as "very, very low," he charged that the worsening conditions in Syria were the result of Western nations carrying out a geopolitical strategy "to split Syria and other countries" in the Middle East.
"It's not a question of promoting democracy or pluralism as the West wants us to understand of its policies. This is a lie, this is hypocrisy," the patriarch said. Western nations did not heed warnings and so "bear responsibility for what is happening in Syria." Patriarch Younan is leader of nearly 40,000 Syriac Catholics in Syria.
"We were warning all those involved, the countries in the region and in the West—that means the United States and some of the European Union countries, like the United Kingdom and France—that this kind of violence would lead to chaos and the chaos to a civil war," Patriarch Younan said. "And at that time, two years ago, they chose not to believe that."
The patriarch spoke...May 10, as Western nations gave contradictory reactions to the war between the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebel forces.
The United States and Russia were calling for an international conference on Syria in Geneva at the end of May, but U.S. President Barack Obama was said to be considering arming rebel groups as war intensified in certain parts of Syria.
"Since the beginning, they (Western nations) just stood against the regime, calling it a dictatorship, saying the dictatorship must fall. Now it's over 25 months, the conflict is getting worse, and the ones who are paying the price are the innocent people," said Patriarch Younan...
It's a perspective that is not likely to be welcomed in Washington, but the patriarch sounded a bitter note on the aims and the outcomes of the America/Western powers' campaign, if it can be described as such, to democratize the Arab world.
Those attempts over the past 20 years to bring so-called democracy in the region, he said, instead were not for the good welfare of the Christians in the Middle East and "were very much harming our very existence."
"And for us Middle Eastern Christians, the faith means a lot. For us, religious liberties come first, otherwise we would not have been surviving for centuries in this area. Western leaders don't want to understand this," Patriarch Younan said. "Christians in the Middle East have been not only abandoned, but we have been lied to and betrayed by Western nations, like the United States and the European Union," he said.
"And I believe there will be a time coming when the Christians of the Middle East will no longer look to the West for support and perhaps to better strengthen their roots with the Eastern culture and civilization. They are better to look to the East, to ... Russia, to India, to China," he said.
Patriarch Younan served for 14 years as bishop of the New Jersey-based Diocese of Our Lady of Deliverance for Syriac Catholics in the United States and Canada. He was elected patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church in January 2009. He and other Eastern Catholic patriarchs in Lebanon have repeatedly warned against toppling Assad, calling instead for dialogue to solve the crisis in the country.
The patriarch emphasized that "we are not siding either with Assad or with his regime. We are with the Syrian people, and our concern is how can we get this country (Syria) back on its feet for the sake of the population.
"We are accused of siding with the (Syrian) regime. This is not the truth," he said. "Sure, we did say from the beginning, this regime has to make reforms, true reforms, both political and in the area of civil liberties."
But the patriarch said that does not mean ousting the regime is the solution, because it could then be replaced with fundamentalist groups, as church leaders had warned, citing Libya and Egypt and other countries of the Arab Spring.