“Threats posed by the Islamic State and violence against Christian and other religious communities’’
I was among the first in Greece to try to raise caution at the exaggerated optimism the Arab Spring generated. But even the most pessimistic among us could hardly foresee the current situation: In Iraq sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni Christians suffering: since 2003 half their population has left the country!
With the advance of the terrorist group “Islamic State” (IS) the tragedy has taken on unprecedented proportions: 1.8 million displaced throughout 2014! When IS captured Iraq’s Christian “capital’’ of Qaragosh, a quarter of all Iraqi Christians (100,000 people) fled!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
From the Yazidi community 130,000 (of just 600,000!) are already refugees and thousands have been brutally assassinated by the IS.
What happens in Syria is unprecedented: 140,000 people dead; 2.5 million fled the country; 6.4 million are displaced inside Syria;
I am honoured in dealing with the plight of Christians and other communities in this Assembly; that we held a first meeting in Athens, and that remarkable contributions were made in it with ideas of how to face this unprecedented situation.
It is important, Ladies and Gentlemen, to consider for a while the Western stand for several years:
We were content with the superficial calm the Region’s authoritarian regimes “guaranteed’’ and no plan B existed for the eventuality of violent, or indeed any, change.
We completely ignored the forces at play in these societies; the effect of Western, particularly US, military interventions and policy mistakes.
We failed to comprehend the new Islamic fundamentalist forces; the rise of IS, for example, caught Europe, and the West in general, totally unprepared.
We failed to deal with the situation in Syria: the opposing views of the US and Russia vis-à-vis the Assad Regime; the situation on the ground, paralysis and incomprehension.
Likewise the US, in a phase of self-flagellation for past mistakes in Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere spent a long time before taking action.
Finally, the advent of the Ukrainian crisis has shifted the West’s attention elsewhere also and has made an understanding
with Russia on this, and other, matters more difficult.
The tragedy in the Middle East is testimony to the overall failure of both Europe and the Islamic States. In view of the above no patchy actions and policies will do; one deals with one’s own great political errors only by opting for great initiatives.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Allow me at this point to put forward some ideas, as reflected in my Report,
I will now mention only what I consider as STRATEGIC GUIDELINES and the additional ideas can be found in the Report:
Muslim societies’ top priority right now should not be the importation of our Western systems undigested but the rediscovery of the great Islamic heritage of their own: the heritage of compassion and benevolence so prominent in the Quran; and, above all the tradition of peaceful co-existence with Christians and Jews, and believers of all faiths. The tradition which helped the Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria to survive to this day.
It is in this light that we must ask of all Muslim States to introduce constitutional guarantees protecting the rights I mentioned a components of their own civilisation.
We need to encourage an alliance of all States in the Region; an alliance that would possess a considerable joint military force to deal with – and above all PREVENT – crises such as the one we are now facing on the ground. And if our support is needed it should be granted.
We must discover and dismantle rapidly (with the help of all friendly States in the Region) two particularly dangerous channels of extremism: their sources of funds and their human recruitment resources either in these Regions or in the West.
we must urgently fund a wide-scale Humanitarian Mechanism to deal with the unprecedented humanitarian crisis we are now facing. Nothing diffuses tension and historical suspicion so much as a helping hand in one’s most tragic hour; we saw that after the earthquakes
in Greece and Turkey when the two nations rushed to help each other.
And, finally, sixth, we need a UN supervised, globally organised and well-funded PROGRAMME OF RECONSTRUCTION for the affected.
Dear colleagues I have made some recommendations of a strategic character in this talk; and we present the rest in an analytical fashion in the Report.
Thank you for your attention.
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