ROME (ANSA) - Syrian Catholic Church patriarch Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Younan has said that he approves of Russia's actions as an attempt to resolve the Syrian conflict and defeat the Islamic State (ISIS). "The Russian intervention gives us a bit of hope in this tragic situation," he said. "Russia has helped Syria a great deal to retake and liberate cities and villages under the control of terrorist groups." "Syrian Christians are grateful to Russia," he said.
"Since it intervened, many things have changed on the ground." "We will thank anyone who helps us to remain in our country," he added, expressing gratitude towards the Russian Orthodox Church for its words of support to local Christian communities, "which we have not received from other parts with the same determination". "Our anguish and our screams of alarm is that something is happening in Iraq and Syria that has already happened in Turkey: Christians are disappearing in the very lands where Christianity was born." The community, he added, was being reduced ever more by ISIS attacks in a very bad situation from a humanitarian standpoint. Christians, he said, "accounted for between 15 and 19% of the population in Syria in the 1950s, but now this has dropped to less than 5%. After the emptying of Mosul in June 2014, in Iraq we have remained only in Kurdistan as refuges, while two-thirds of the Christians who had been in Baghdad have left."