SHAFAQNA -Â Syrian refugees are not wanted in Ireland because theyâ€™re Muslim, an Irish aid worker has claimed.
Fr William Stuart, who lost friends in the conflict in that country, helped establish a charity for displaced Syrian children in North Lebanon in 2013.
He has witnessed indescribable horror and heartache in a situation he has compared to â€œArmageddonâ€.
This week the Irish Government confirmed it will take in 4,000 peopleÂ
under â€œrelocation and resettlementâ€ programmes as part of an EU-wideÂ
response to the refugee crisis.
Priority will be given to unaccompanied minors and a series of reception centres will be opened around the country over the coming weeks.
Speaking excusively to the Irish Sunday Mirror Fr William, 55, accused the West of being selfish and only taking action after the war came to its doorstep.
And he said Ireland is â€œafraidâ€ of refugees because theyâ€™re Muslim.
The priest, who worked in education for 20 years and with the Irish Defence Forces, said: â€œIrish peopleâ€™s problem isnâ€™t that theyâ€™re refugees, itâ€™s that theyâ€™re Muslims.
â€œIf they were Christians weâ€™d be better predisposed to them. Weâ€™re afraid of them â€“ they have a bad press and a large minority donâ€™t want Syrians here.â€
Describing the horror, he added: â€œEvery Syrian knows someone close to them who is dead. I have friends who are dead.
â€œItâ€™s horrendous whatâ€™s happened. Itâ€™s Armageddon in some respects.
â€œWe in the West react after it affects us. IS were running amok for two years before they killed a foreign journalist.
â€œThey were going into villages and literally whipping men into the mosque five times a day.â€
Fr William spoke out after three countries in Eastern Europe and several mayors in France said they will only take Christian refugees.
He revealed: â€œLast year it was all Syrian Muslims. Now its Iraqi Christians getting run out of Iraq by IS.
â€œIS in Iraq is poisonous. Itâ€™s a bit like a house fire. You get out and you run for safety â€“ all we see is the end product.
â€œRussia, China, Britain and the US are all waiting for the lionâ€™s share of the Middle East.â€
The Rosminian father, orginally from Clontarf in North Dublin, first went to Syria on a sabbatical to study Arabic in Damascus.
And he was there in 2011 when the violence began.
Fr William added: â€œWeâ€™d have seen pro-government marches, organised by the State.
â€œThen you would see thugs brought in from the countryside, carrying batons and the like. This was the build up.â€
In 2012 his window was blown in by an explosion during an attempt to murder President Bashir Al Assadâ€™s sister.
He recalled: â€œIt was getting worse and you could already feel it was dangerous.
â€œSyrians socialise at night. It wouldnâ€™t be unusual to meet at 11pm for tea and backgammon until three or four. But the streets were empty by 8pm, it wasnâ€™t safe any more.â€
Fr William also visited the city of Palmyra, home to 2,000-year-old temples recently destroyed by IS.
He revealed: â€œIt is just horrendous. I find I am very emotional, Damascus is the only place left standing.
â€œLast year I was talking to the kids by way of introduction, asking them what was their name, whatâ€™s the name of your village, where is it, whatâ€™s it like?
â€œA little girl said, â€˜Itâ€™s not there anymoreâ€™ and then the penny dropped. Itâ€™s rubble, the whole thing is wiped out.â€
Fr William set up his Schools for Syria charity with a group of Irish and Syrians living in Ireland, who raise funds for it.
The schools are run by the French Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and the Little Brothers of Jesus.
The Insan School, from the Arabic for â€œhuman lightâ€, runs English language classes for children. Fr William added: â€œThey need education, they want education and they want to go home.â€