Uncontrollable emigration – driven by misery, corruption and Western sanctions – is crippling the Christian community in Syria, according to an archbishop.
Christian families are leaving Syria en masse because of growing societal problems, such as extreme poverty and an education system in crisis, Archbishop Jacques Mourad of Homs told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The archbishop said that the severe challenges facing the country “are the result of oppressive sanctions against Syria, which directly affect the people and the corruption”.
He added, “We see families leaving Syria because they want to ensure a better life for their children.
“They have lost hope and confidence in this country, and they do not want their children to live in a country where they are not safe.
“There are also many young people who choose to emigrate, and this also poses considerable problems.”
Syria’s Christian population declined from about 1.5 million to 300,000-500,000 during the 12 years following the outbreak of the civil war in 2011, according to ACN’s Religious Freedom in the World Report 2023.
Archbishop Mourad said that, since young men are the most likely to leave, “young Christian women end up marrying Muslims and then they have to convert – that’s the law”.
He also highlighted the threat to society posed by a collapsing education system.
He said, “All our children and young people in schools and universities are affected.
“Education is the future of our country, and children and teachers have the right to a good working environment, yet teachers’ salaries – only €18-20 (£15-17) per month – are below the level of human dignity.”
He concluded, “It is wonderful to have the concrete, incarnate presence of organizations like ACN here in Syria, which give witness to true love, to solidarity.”
ACN is supporting a program distributing more than 3,000 gifts to children and people with disabilities this Christmas, as well as helping clergy in the Archdiocese of Homs with Mass offerings – their only source of income – and subsistence assistance.
Other ACN projects in Syria include annual summer camps with pastoral activities for children, young people, scouts and choirs to help heal the traumas caused by war, social instability and poverty.