LEBANON: "We have always known that ISIS is a danger to the whole world"

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Issam John Darwish of Zahle and Furzol in Lebanon said he believed the attacks in France had been inevitable. 

“We have always known that ISIS is a danger to the whole world. But Europe hasn’t taken it seriously.” The Archbishop said that the attacks the Islamist terrorist organisation Daesh (ISIS) should cause Europe to rethink its policy with regards to the Syrian conflict. 

Archbishop Darwish called for greater action, adding: “It’s time to fight ISIS together with the Syrian government. “Only then will we be able to see how to move on in Syria.” The day before the attacks in Paris where 130 people died, more than 40 people were killed and hundreds injured in the Lebanese capital of Beirut by Daesh militants. 

“We here in Lebanon feel the pain of the French people. But the French and the world must also feel our pain.” The Archbishop believed that France and the rest of Europe were still in danger from extremists while fighting continued in Syria. “The young men are fighting in Syria, they undergo brainwashing there. “They return to Europe and are no longer able to live without struggle and that is very dangerous.” 

Archbishop Darwish also expressed concern about the large number of refugees fleeing from the Middle East seeking safety in Europe. He believed that this could provide cover for extremists hoping to enter Europe to carry out further attacks and stressed the importance of helping Christians to remain in their homeland. 

The decision of the European governments to accept so many refugees “has given a reason to many to leave the region, including Christians. “It would be better to help the people here in the region; we need them here.” The Melkite Archdiocese of Zahle and Furzol near the Syrian border is currently supporting 800 Christian refugee families from Syria with the help of ACN. 

Archbishop Darwish thanked the charity for all the support it had given, saying: “Without the generosity of the benefactors we wouldn't be able to do what we are doing.” As numbers of refugees have risen, ACN has increased financial aid for Church projects in Lebanon. 

In 2014, the charity provided more than £700,000 to support 45 projects in the country, with more than half helping displaced people. 

By Oliver Maksan and Clare Creegan

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