BEIRUT: The Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and the Levant has strongly criticized France’s offer to grant Iraqi Christians political asylum, describing the move as an attempt to empty the region from the adepts of Christ.
In a statement Wednesday, the church said “helping the people of the Levant, Christians and Muslims, can be done by uprooting terrorism from their land and stop nurturing the takfiri groups.”
The church charged that Muslim extremists persecuting Christians were being supported logistically and militarily by states through undeclared alliances.
“We are keen to emphasize that the difficult phase through which the Levant is going does not justify attempts to portray the conditions of the Christians in the Orient similar to that of religious and racial minorities in other parts of the world,” the statement said.
“The best way to help the Christians of the Levant as well as Muslims is through pushing for peace through dialogue and political solutions, and curbing all reasons that fuel extremism, notably the injustice done to the Palestinian people."
It stressed that the only place to be for Christians was their home and land.
The French government said it was willing to facilitate asylum to Iraqi Christians who fled persecution by the Al-Qaeda-inspired jihadist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).
After seizing control of Mosul and other areas in northern Iraq in mid-July, ISIS, which renamed itself the Islamic State, ordered those Christians who had not yet fled to either convert to Islam, pay a religious tax levied on conquered non-Muslims or face death.
In a related development, Future Movement MPs expressed solidarity with Iraqi Christians Wednesday and called for providing them with aid similar to that given to Syrian refugees.
“We came here to express our solidarity with our Christian brethren in Iraq who were persecuted and displaced at the hands of terrorist groups that committed the ugliest crimes against them, amounting to crimes against humanity,” MP Atef Majdalani said, after a meeting with Chaldean Archbishop Michel Kassarji.
Majdalani, who headed a seven-person Future delegation, called for extending all types of assistance needed by Iraqi refugees, revealing that the parliamentary committee for health would meet in a week to discuss the issue of Christian refugees from Mosul with the health, interior and social affairs ministers.
The majority of Iraqi Christians belong to the Chaldean Church, which has representation in Lebanon.