Syriac Patriarch Younan meets US ambassador to Lebanon and asks the US to support and safeguard rights and freedoms of Syriacs

BEIRUT / DAROUN HARISSA – Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan, this Monday, met with US ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea on matters of Syriacs in Lebanon and the wider Middle East. The meeting took place at the Monastery of Our Lady of Deliverance, the Patriarchal See in Daroun Harissa.

Patriarch Younan, head of the Syriac Catholic Church of Antioch, praised US President Donald Trump his efforts with regard to promoting, supporting and safeguarding human rights and freedoms, especially pertaining religious rights and freedoms, expressing his hope that the US administration will help support, protect, and safeguard Christian and Syriacs’ presence and future in equality with other citizens in Middle Eastern countries with Syriac presence.

Regarding the issue of Lebanon’s neutrality, a discussion started by Syriac Maronite Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï, Patriarch Younan expressed his full support for active neutrality of Lebanon and indicated the need for loyalty of all Lebanese, irrespective class, sect and affiliation, to Lebanon as their final homeland, far from any bias toward any regional or international power.

Ambassador Shea expressed her pleasure to learn to know the Syriac people and that she as a representative of her country always seeks to spread the truth and build bridges for cooperation. She stated that her country will always support freedom and coexistence between all components.

In the meeting, Patriarch Younan also emphasized the importance of separation of religion and state in Middle Eastern countries and said that Syriacs are abiding citizens to the states they live in and uphold that state, but need to be able to do that in equality with all citizens of that state. He emphasized in the meeting that he will continue to call for Syriacs’ rights and freedoms.

Patriarch Younan is an outspoken advocate of Syriac rights and self-representation. In 2016, he and Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II issued a joint statement demanding parliamentary seats for Syriacs in Lebanese parliament. The two church leaders stated that, “We do not accept to be classified as ‘minorities’ and we demand to have new parliament seats one for the Syriac Orthodox and one for the Syriac Catholic.”

In June 2017 the two patriarchs attended the Brussels conference “A Future for Christians in Iraq” where they endorsed the final position of the conference for a home province for Syriacs in the Nineveh Plain and Syriac self-representation. The Nineveh Plain’s two biggest towns Baghdede and Bartella are respectively majority Syriac Catholic and Syriac Orthodox.

Syriac Patriarchs Younan and Aphrem at the Brussels conference on the future of Christians in Iraq. Image: Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate.