SYRIA: Fresh conflict threatens new exodus of Christians

Syriac-Catholic Archbishop Behnan Hindo of Hassaké-Nisibi (© ACN)
Syriac-Catholic Archbishop Behnan Hindo of Hassaké-Nisibi (© ACN)

Warnings that the fresh violence in north-east Syria could unleash a renewed – and potentially fatal – exodus of Christians from the region have come from a bishop who has accused the US and the international community of inflicting huge damage on the country.

Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo said he feared a massive exodus of Christians in Hassaké – where half of Catholics and Orthodox have left since 2010 – as well as Qamishli, in north-east Syria.

Speaking in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Emeritus Archbishop of Hassaké-Nisibi highlighted his concerns for the region amid reports of thousands of Daesh (ISIS) fighters and their families on the run following a strike on Chirkin prison, Qamishli.

The Syriac Catholic archbishop warned that the Daesh fighters could infiltrate Europe via Turkey. 

Describing the plight of 5,000 families in his former diocese, Archbishop Hindo said: “In recent days, many had already moved from the border towns to Hassaké.”

The archbishop, who reported the killing of two Christians yesterday (Thursday, 10th October), in attacks on Qamishli, added: “Now the conflict has become even more serious and I fear that many will emigrate.”

Stating that before the latest conflict 50 percent of Catholics and Orthodox had fled Hassaké – with almost as many leaving Qamishli – Archbishop Hindo said: “I fear a similar exodus, if not a greater one.”

Speaking out against the international community’s intervention in Syria over the years, Archbishop Hindo said: “The United States, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and Germany should all offer their own mea culpa.

“They acted in Syria for their own interests, hiding behind the ideals of freedom and democracy. Instead they have done nothing but weaken our country at the expense of its own people.”

He said: “As always, everyone has their own interests, but it is we Christians who will suffer the consequences.”

The archbishop, who in March met Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party leaders, said he predicted the Kurds will lose in the conflict with Turkey, especially in the absence of support from the US or other leading world nations.

Criticising Kurdish defensive actions in the conflict, he said: “It was not a clever move from the Kurds. It was clear that no one would help them. Now they will lose everything.”