CWN - The patriarchs of four Eastern churches, Catholic and Orthodox, have joined in an appeal for Christians not to leave Syria during the current crisis.
"With all my heart we ask the Christians of Syria not to leave our beloved country, despite the violence, the suffering, the displacement,” the patriarchs said. The message, released through the Fides news agency, was timed to coincide with the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in Lebanon. The appeal was signed by Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham; Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius III Younan; Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Zakka I Iwas; and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim. All four prelates have their headquarters in Damascus.
"Be patient, do not run away," the patriarchs implore their people. Acknowledging the dangers that Christians are suffering in Syria today, they recognize the “temptation” to leave the country, but ask the faithful to bear the pain.
If Christians continue to leave Syria, the prelates argue, the country’s conflict could spill over into Lebanon (where most refugees have sought shelter). Meanwhile, they warn, Syria could follow the pattern of Iraq, where strong pressure from Islamic militants has greatly diminished the historic Christian presence.