From the Middle East, we offer the perspective of a Catholic bishop of what is actually occurring in both Syria and Egypt, and the negative effect it is having on Christians native to those regions.
Catholic bishop gives his views on two wars in familiar countries
As most of our readers know, the Middle Eastern countries of Syria and Egypt have both been embroiled in a violent conflict for some time now, though many are perhaps unfamiliar with the true causes and motivating factors underlying these continuing wars.
Helping to clear the fog of war, Armenian Catholic Bishop Krikor Okostinos Coussan recently offered some background information about the conflict in both countries. The bishop is eminently capable of offering such clarifying news, as he is a native of Syria, but now resides in Egypt, where he leads displaced Armenian Catholics in that country.
Offering some crucial information at the start, Bishop Coussan stated during an interview with the Catholic News Service that while there are various groups involved in the continual acts of terror that have killed and injured thousands upon thousands of civilians (including many children), nonetheless, their objectives are usually identical:
They are all 100 percent terrorists... and they come to destroy countries and separate people and foment sectarian strife. They come to destroy... heritages and humanity, and to put hatred and contempt in people's hearts."
Continuing the CNS interview, Bishop Coussan asserted that these terrorist groups are:
'bent on installing Islamic extremist forms of rule' in the entire Middle East, and that many of those now fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad were 'foreigners" and "mercenaries... paid to blow themselves up.' Opposition groups in Syria, some of them openly Muslim militant, have been fighting the dictatorial, secular regime of Assad in a protracted war that the U.N. says has killed at least 100,000 by last July and displaced nearly 9 million others."
Meanwhile in Egypt, human rights groups have reported that since military coup that removed Mohammed Morsi as president in July 2013, “hundreds” have been killed through “an unwarranted crackdown on dissent by state security.”
Concerning the hostage situation in Syria (two bishops and three priests—one an Italian Jesuit and another, an Armenian Catholic—and about 12 sisters), Bishop Coussan assured that prayers were being offered for their safe release.
As Christians only account for about 10% of the population in Syria and Egypt, which are both predominantly Islamic, they have recently become targets of the violence being perpetrated in these countries. Consequently:
Tens of thousands have reportedly emigrated over the past three years, as have hundreds of thousands of Iraq's minority Christians since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein."
Despite the ongoing persecution though, Bishop Coussan firmly stated that it is "the duty and mission" of the Middle East's minority Christians to stay in their "homelands... for the sake of our children and their children's children."
It is in the Middle East that these Christians and their ancestors have lived and if we leave the Middle East, the Middle East will be lost. And if we go to the West, we are lost, because our traditions, customs and rites will disappear…"
1 “Bishop’s two worlds engulfed in violence”.