The Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Syria, has warned that Christianity is slowly dying in the war torn country, and asked just how much horror must the people experience before the world takes action to stop the massacres.
"In my country, Syria, Christians are caught in the middle of a civil war and they are enduring the rage of an extremist jihad. And it is unjust for the West to ignore the persecutions these Christian communities are experiencing," Jean-Clément Jeanbart said in an article posted by MercatorNet on Tuesday.
"What horrors must ISIS commit before the world will take greater action to stop the murderers?" he asked. "Syrian Christians are in grave danger; we may disappear soon."
Syria is caught in an ongoing civil war that has led to 320,000 deaths since March 2011, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported earlier in June, with more than 1,500,000 people believed to have been wounded.
The war is being fought between the government of President Bashar al-Assad, a number of rebel groups seeking to bring down his administration, and terror group ISIS, which has captured significant territory in the country.
Christians are among the many civilians that have been caught in the cross-fire, and have also been specifically targeted by ISIS, which beheads and executes those that do not pledge allegiance to its version of Islam, or do not have the means to pay a tax.
Jeanbart admitted that the realities in the region are "complex and interwoven with many historical, social and religious nuances."
"For decades Syrian Christians lived peacefully in a society alongside a Muslim majority which was tolerant. There was a cordial atmosphere of mutual acceptance and friendship. This is no longer the case. Syrian Christians are disoriented by the implosion of a way of life that was once quiet and safe," he described.
"They are afraid to leave their houses, they avoid going out of their cities or villages, or do so only to move to other regions where they hope to find a safe refuge. In dangerous zones like Aleppo and villages close to Turkey, what terrorizes the population more than the fighting and the bombing, are the kidnappings, the snipers, car-bombs, the shelling and the looting … all this culminating in the manifestation of ISIS."
The Aleppo archbishop noted that his city has suffered heavily, and described how "innumerable attacks —most recently the bombing of the Christian quarter over Easter weekend — have destroyed its churches, its factories and its flourishing industry, its infrastructure and social and administrative institutions, its commercial area and its legendary souks, its ancient homes, schools, and hospitals."
He added that more than 40,000 Christians, or one-third of the total number that lived in the city, have left the area since 2011, making up a part of the 3 million Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries as refugees.
The U.S. and allied nations have responded to ISIS by launching airstrikes in both Syria and Iraq against terror targets, but have been unable to broker peace in the civil war.
Jeanbart said that the Christian community in Syria is grateful to the international community for its efforts to stop ISIS. He said, however, that civilians are still defenseless against the terror group, and called for America and its allies to provide "better protection and execute a more aggressive strategy."
"In the case of the fighting in northeastern Syria, the capture of several hundred Assyrian Christians could have been prevented had the U.S. started its bombing raids earlier. The recent coordinated effort, that included Kurdish troops on the ground, proved effective in turning back ISIS, but for many Assyrians this help came too late," he said.
The Aleppo archbishop added that many Christians and minorities remain without provisions for shelter, food, and medical assistance, and said that there are still vast emergency needs to be considered.
"Once — God-willing — ISIS is defeated and a measure of peace is restored to the lands, Christians must be able to count on the U.S. and its allies for continued, long-term military protection. There has to be a kind of iron-clad system in place so that the tragedies of the past four years are not repeated," he added.