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Archbishop in Syria held by IS begs Italian government to ease restrictions to save Christians

by Sophie Drew

A Catholic archbishop held captive by ISIS is appealing for less economic restrictions on Syria.

With the help of a Catholic charity, Syriac-Catholic leaders have appealed to the Italian government over fears that economic sanctions are suffocating Chrsitians living in the Middle Eastern nation.

Archbishop Jacques Mourad of Homs, in western Syria, believes that the embargo imposed by Western nations severely affects the general population, particularly Christians, while failing to affect the government, its intended target.

The Archbishop, who himself was held captive by the Islamist group Daesh (ISIS) for five months, conveyed these concerns to Alfredo Mantovano, Italy’s Undersecretary of State, to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.

A Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need representative told the Italian leaders that Syria’s Christian population has dwindled from two million - approximately ten per cent of the population - to a mere 300-500,000 during the ongoing armed conflict spanning over a decade.

In a meeting on the 24th of July, Archbishop Mourad said the restrictions even go as far as limiting humanitarian aid because bank transfers are often blocked.

This blockade has created significant challenges for Church-run institutions that provide crucial support to communities in need as they struggle to receive vital funding.

Archbishop Antoine Chahda of Aleppo highlighted the stark poverty facing ordinary people in Aleppo and other parts of Syria who struggle to afford basic necessities such as electricity, food and medicine.

In 2021, Pope Francis drew attention to the worsening situation in Syria, which he says is exacerbated by the sanctions put on the Middle Eastern nation by the West. He said he hopes the measures will be relaxed in order to ensure humanitarian aid can be delivered to where it is most needed.

The message was received positively by the Italian officials, who have pledged to discuss the issue with the European Union.

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