Rome Newsroom, Feb 5, 2021 / 07:00 am
As the 10th anniversary of the start of the Syrian war approaches, the Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Damascus is appealing for refugees to return home.
“We want our Syrian people to return to Syria,” Archbishop John Jihad Battah of Damascus said in an interview with EWTN.
More than 6.7 million people have fled Syria since the conflict began on March 15, 2011, according to 2018 data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
The majority of refugees stayed in the Middle East, with more than half registered as living in Turkey (3.6 million in 2021) and another 1.6 million refugees also living in either Lebanon or Jordan, which also border Syria.
Turkey has been working with the UN to begin a voluntary repatriation of Syrian refugees. The Syrian government, in partnership with Russia, hosted a conference in Damascus in November aimed at encouraging refugees to return.
“If you can help the Syrian people to stay in their country, it is better than helping them in Lebanon or in Europe,” Battah said.
Archbishop Battah acknowledged that the situation in Syria remains “dire,” citing an increase in poverty, inflation, and a lack of adequate medicine and essential infrastructure. The World Bank estimates that Syria has suffered at least $197 billion worth of infrastructure damage during the conflict.
The Syriac Catholic leader underscored that “change comes from within.” He noted the important role that Christians, in particular, can play in rebuilding society through the family, schools, hospitals, and other Catholic institutions.