Speaking in Rome, where he is head of the Missionary Society of St Columban, Fr McCulloch drew on his 34 years in Pakistan to explain some of the complexities of the Muslim world to an international group of journalists.
Referring to the historic divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims, he said a major issue for Muslims was not one of confrontation with the West but their ongoing inability to resolve this major ideological religious fault line among themselves.
“It is a problem that we as Christians or from a Christian tradition cannot solve,” he said. “But it leads to another complexity: the lucrative supply of weapons into this ideological arena which is sanctioned and encouraged by Western, Russian and other governments and politicians.
“This is no more than institutionalised gun-running on an extraordinary scale.”
He singled out the British Parliament, saying it was incomprehensible it could approve the surgical bombing of Syria in response to chemical warfare while the UK was the major source of weaponry being used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
“This is selective indignation at its commercial and capitalist best,” he said.
Fr McCulloch said Christians were treated as second-class citizens in Muslim countries and Islam did not engender civil and political equity and religious freedom. But he said the only two countries in the Middle East where there had been a sense of equity and religious freedom for Christians were Syria and Jordan, particularly the former.
“Syria is no more, due to the conflicting claims of Turkey and Saudi Arabia for regional power and the involvement of the USA, Russia, Iran and other countries for their own purposes,” he said.
“We just need listen to the lamentations of the Syrian Christian patriarchs and church leaders for their nation and their people.”