BEIRUT (CNS) — Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said Christians in the Middle East feel “abandoned, even betrayed” by the West as a militant Islamic force occupied large areas of Syria and Iraq.
Christians “are facing the biggest challenge for their survival on the lands of their forefathers in Iraq and Syria,” the patriarch told Catholic News Service June 18 by email from the patriarchate in Beirut.

A member of Iraqi security forces stands guard in Baghdad June 17 (CNS photo/Ahmed Saad, Reuters)
“We are very anxious, even devastated, because of the horrendous news that keeps coming to us from Mosul (Iraq) and surrounding areas,” Patriarch Younan wrote. His comments came as the militant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant gained control of large areas of Syria and Iraq in a violent push through both countries in June.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant includes thousands of fighters and has readily killed Muslims and Christians while functioning with military efficiency. Earlier, Archbishop Jean Sleiman, the Latin-rite bishop of Baghdad, urged the international community not to intervene in the struggle against the militants, insisting that the priority is for Iraqi leaders to “work together” to overcome the crisis.
In an interview from Baghdad with the charitable organization Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Sleiman stressed that political consensus within Iraq would be critical in overcoming the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.