Catholic Priest in Bulgaria Gets Death Threat for Helping Syrian Refugee Family

Society | March 7, 2017, Tuesday // 10:47|  views

Paolo Cortesi. File photo

A municipal councilor in Belene, northern Bulgaria, has launched a campaign against a Catholic priest as the latter decided to accept a Syrian family granted refugee status, Bulgarian media report.

The Syrians consider leaving for fear of their lives.

The family arrived in Belene after a long period of coordination between the State Agency for Refugees in Bulgaira and the Catholic community of Belene. The Syrians came to Bulgaria on a plane from Greece, with the assistance of Bulgarian authorities, in the autumn of last year, and were granted status. They arrived voluntarily, under the relocation scheme launched in 2015.

The Catholic church offered them lodging and help them to begin learning Bulgarian and, NOVA TV reports.

But Krasimir Todorov, a councilor who represents a local nationalist coalition, has gathered some locals to protest against the actions of Paolo Cortesi, the Catholic priest who helped the family.

A report by NOVA TV showed a late-night demonstration in Belene of locals who repeated they wanted no refugees in their town.

The problem is not with the refugees per se, but rather the priest's decision to act without asking locals if they agree, Todorov says. "People are afraid that if one family comes, 50 more will come."

Cortesi, on the other hand, argues the position does not reflect attitudes in Belene, but only the view of the councilor and twenty of his friends. He says he acted in accordance with the law. "It is as if someone went to Pleven [a northern Bulgarian city] to rent an apartment [and] sign a contract - one will not ask all residents of Pleven if they agree to let him live in the city," he told bTV station.

Issam, who formerly worked as a furniture designer for a big company in Syria and May Albakri, an Arabic-English translator, came from Damascus with two of their three children, aged 23 and 15.

The development comes days after protests in the town of Elin Pelin against a Syrian family willing to settle there.

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Tags: Syrians, Belene, Paolo Cortesi, Catholic church


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