In an open letter to young Catholics, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham has pleaded for an end to a “tsunami” of emigration.
“The almost communal wave of youth emigration, especially in Syria, but also in Lebanon and Iraq breaks my heart,” wrote the Syria-based prelate. He asked young people to reflect on the future of the Church in the Middle East, saying that the exodus threatens the Christian presence there.
Illustrating the Melkite Patriarch’s point, Aid to the Church in Need reports that at least 450,000 of Syria’s 1.17 million Christians have left their homes since 2011 and are now either living abroad or displaced within their own country. In neighboring Iraq, the Christian population has plummeted from over 1 million to under 300,000 in the past decade, and is still falling.
“Our forebears underwent great difficulties, but they exercised patience and so the Church remained,” Patriarch Gregory reminded young people.