The leader of Lebanon’s biggest church in his Easter message has called for the country’s huge refugee population to be deported from the country.
Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai heads the Maronite Church and said Syrian refugees, thought to number as many as 1.5 million people, are "draining the state's resources".
Speaking to Premier Christian News, Syrian Orthodox Christian, Aziz Nour from Mosul in Iraq, explained how the entire Christian community from the area had fled so-called Islamic State in 2014, with some of his relatives finding refuge in Lebanon.
“The majority of them are living as internally displaced people, IDPs and it’s the worst situation ever”, he commented.
“They've been living in this situation, and there's no light at the end of the tunnel for them in that part of the world”, he continued. “The Middle East is becoming one refugee camp. This thing has to be sorted out on the political level.”
Patriarch Bechara stated in his Easter service message that Syrian refugees are "disturbing social security and competing with the Lebanese for their livelihood". He said it was for the international community to help them return to Syria.
Whilst Lebanon has a population of just under seven million people, on top of its estimated refugee population, the country has no government in office and is facing near economic collapse.
“We have to unpack what he said and not take it at face value”, Aziz Nour said about the Maronite leader’s message.
“It is inhumane to ask people to leave camp and go back to the battlefield. But you have to understand which angle he's coming from, which is the political situation in Syria, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.”
“The demographic mosaic of Lebanon is a really very sensitive issue there. The birth rate of Lebanon has somewhat declined, but the birth rate in these camps are something really frightening. There is a competition for further resources. This is an issue not just for Christian leaders, but Muslims too.“