Syrian archbishop pleads for UK to stop backing anti-Assad Islamist groups

The Archbishop of Aleppo says the UK is 'investing in jihadis and mercenaries' and inadvertently bringing about the destruction of the country

A Syrian archbishop has pleaded for the British Government to stop backing Islamist rebel groups who he said were in fact “fundamentalist jihadis who want to kill everyone who is not similar to them”.

Jean-Clément Jeanbart, the Archbishop of Aleppo, said the UK was inadvertently helping to bring about the destruction of Syria by funding such anti-President Assad groups.  

He also said Britain is “investing in jihadis and mercenaries who are killing anyone who is saying anything about freedom, citizenship, religious liberty and democracy”.

It was a “big lie” that moderate rebel forces in support of freedom and democracy were at war with the Assad regime, the Archbishop told MPs at a House of Lords meeting this week organised by Aid to the Church in Need, a charity set up to help persecuted Christians.

He said the four-year civil war was a contest between a modern secular state and jihadis who were destroying its culture and massacring religious minorities.

Archbishop Jeanbart accused the Western media of presenting an inaccurate depiction of the conflict. “Please, I ask you, I beseech you to have another look at our situation to see what is underneath what is happening,” he told a meeting organised by Aid to the Church in Need, a charity set up to help persecuted Christians.

“It is terrible for us to see all the marvellous things we had, destroyed for pretend democracy and freedom,” the Melkite Archbishop said. “Our country was fighting for 50 to 60 years to become a secularist regime, a pluralistic country, to give citizens their rights of religion and freedom of choice . . . and you are destroying this work and pushing on us fundamental jihadis who want to kill everyone who is not similar to them.

“They don’t accept anyone who is different. Anyone who is not a fundamentalist Muslim has no rights: no right to live, no right to be in society, no right to be a citizen.”

“We are suffering because they [the jihadi rebel groups] have destroyed everything — our economy, our industry, our churches, everything. The most important thing we are suffering from is that they are destroying man. They are taking away our right to choose what we want to be.”

The Archbishop said the Syrian representative to the UN had written 258 letters to the UN presidency protesting about the plight of his country without receiving a single reply.

David Cameron is expected to again put his case to Parliament for British military intervention in the Syrian civil war within the next few weeks.