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Syrian Bishop Urges Pope Francis to Raise Arms Supply Issue in Turkey

“So this is religious if you want to call it religious — but religious which is ideological and political. In Islam it is all mixed together, they don’t differentiate between religion and politics as the secular societies of Europe do. We have the same problem inside Syria,” he explained.

He added that 80 percent of the Syrian people are Sunni, and many of the more extreme elements have sought assistance from Saudi Arabia and Turkey in their goal of an Islamic state with Shariah law.

The bishop said the Islamic State group aimed to spread violence and fear and terrify people, but added, “They don’t have any future as an Islamic state.”

Bishop Audo said he sees Christians as mediators between the secular West and the Islamic world.

“I am convinced that Oriental Christianity has a big role to play in Syria and the Middle East because it is able to dialogue with the Islamic world because we have a creed,” he said.

The ongoing exodus of Christians is detrimental not just to Christianity itself, he said, but to those societies in the Middle East that currently tend not to draw a distinction between politics and religion.

Bishop Audo said he believes Christianity has a role to play in providing a more nuanced understanding of citizenship and a greater acceptance of political and religious differences.

Expressing his concern for Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna of Aleppo and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo, who were kidnapped in April 2013 in northern Syria, he said, “I hope that they are not dead, but our situation is so complicated inside Syria — I fear a lot for them.”

For now, Bishop Audo said he plans to remain in Aleppo.

“Aleppo is my town where I was born, where I grew up and studied. All my family is from Aleppo. Several times I’ve been asked when I will leave Aleppo. I won’t leave Aleppo — it is my country. Here I live and here I die with my people,” he said.

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Tags: Syria War Turkey Chaldean Church Aleppo