At the present moment, dialogue is focused on how the two can mutually and peacefully coexist, he said, with an emphasis on the fact that "we live in the 21 st century, that we have to respect each other, to accept each other and not discriminate because of religion."
"This is also the mission, the task of the countries who have a word to say on the international scene," he said. "We sit together at the United Nations...and we talk about human rights and therefore we have to uphold those rights for all, not only for the ones who believe in our religion, but for all people."
While the Holy See, and Pope Francis in particular, understand and are doing their best to help in the plight of Christians in the Middle East, Younan said that in the broader community "the geopolitical strategy of the mighty countries is still in, let's say, the 'winning' part in the world."
"To follow the ethics of the Gospel, the real defense of human rights is for those who are the weakest and for the forgotten ones among the minorities in the Middle East," he said, but "that's not the case, we are not the point of their interest."
The first right that needs to be promoted for Christians in the Middle East is to be able "to live in freedom as equal citizens," rather than second-class citizens who face harsh discrimination which frequently goes unpunished by the law, the patriarch said.
Another key right is the ability "to choose our creed, our religion, and the right also to announce our creed, our religion to others," he said.
However, currently "it's forbidden" to evangelize in Muslim countries apart from Lebanon. Because of this, "we've been always, along the centuries, reduced to minorities because we've been forbidden to be missionaries in our own country."
Issuing an appeal to the international community, Younan asked that Western nations not look at Christian and other minorities in the Middle East "as numbers, but as people, as persons, being persecuted along the centuries."
"We've been reduced to minorities not because we had to leave our countries, but because we are not considered equal citizens with the Muslim majority," he said, and called on "this so-called civilized world not just to look for their own political, economic interest," but to protect "the rights of those who are persecuted because of their religion and their creed."
"This is the way to deal with our problems, our very critical situation," he said. And if the world fails to do defend the "human and religious" rights of everyone, "the Middle East will be emptied of their Christian communities and it would be a very great loss."
Material from EWTN News Nightly was used in this report.
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Elise Harris was senior Rome correspondent for CNA from 2012 to 2018.