A Syrian archbishop has made a desperate appeal for the West to save the country’s religious minorities.
Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo of Hassaké-Nisibi has said Kurdish authorities in north-east Syria are determined to drive out Christians from the region.
The senior church leader has claimed that the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS), the Kurdish self-governing regional authority, has been unfairly closing Christian schools.
Archbishop Hindo told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the DFNS has targeted 85-year-old Christian institutions because of their refusal to comply with the new Kurdish curriculum.
“The Kurdish officials had assured us that they would not even look at the private [Catholic] schools, but they not only looked at them, they closed them,” he said.
“For years I have been saying that the Kurds are trying to eliminate the Christian presence in this part of Syria.
“Since the beginning of the year, the local government has already taken possession of about 100 state-run schools and introduced their own curriculum and textbooks.”
“They do not want us to instruct pupils in the liturgical language, Syriac, and they do not want us to teach history because they prefer to drum their own history into the heads of pupils.”
He expressed concern that Kurdish forces will close the remaining Christian schools and has urged the international community to take action.
“The West cannot keep silent, Archbishop Hindo said.
“You are obligated to bring everything that is happening out into the open and prevent further violations of our rights and further threats to our presence in this region.”
“We have been warning against this danger since at least 2015. They want to oust us Christians to strengthen their own presence.”
In 2015, Kurdish forces defeated Islamic State which had occupied 35 Christian villages in Hassaké province. However, ACN said Christians complained when the Kurds failed to relinquish control for months on end.