As Lithuania expresses solidarity with the world's persecuted Christians, a Syrian Jesuit priest says he has hope that countless refugees will be able to return home and expect not to be persecuted for their religious beliefs.
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Ziad Hilal said in a news conference at the parliament building in Vilnius on Monday that over 5 million people have fled civil war-torn Syria and another 12 million have been displaced within the country, which had a population of 22 million before the outbreak of the conflict in 2011.

Hilal, a refugee himself, named several Christian missionaries who were kidnapped and killed several years ago.

"We don't want to become refugees living in Europe. We want Syrian people to live in a safe and peaceful Syria," he said.

According the priest, the Syrian Christian community, which makes up about 7 percent of the country's population, is one of the largest in the region.

Mark von Riedemann, director for public affairs at the Aid to the Church in Need, said that Christian persecution is widespread in other countries as well.

Von Riedemann called on European governments to pay attention to this "underestimated" problem and "assume responsibility".

"I want to thank Lithuania as a country taking part in this call to raise awareness of Christian minorities in countries where they currently suffer persecution and oppression," he said.

"If our generation allows this to go on, we will have to assume a huge responsibility for this in history books."

BNS
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