Pope calls for immediate end to the violence in Syria

Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Ja'afari, center right, sits in the United Nations Security Council chambers, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 at United Nations headquarters. The U.N. Security Council has unanimously approved a resolution demanding a 30-day cease-fire across Syria "without delay" to deliver humanitarian aid to millions and evacuate the critically ill and wounded. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Pope Francis today made an impassioned appeal for “an immediate end to the violence” in Syria where he said “the war has re-exploded” especially in eastern Ghouta. He asked that access be given to “humanitarian aid—food and medicines” and that “the wounded and the sick be evacuated” in that zone.

Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, is one of few enclaves still in the hands of the rebel forces that oppose President Bassar al-Assad, and in recent weeks it has come under heavy bombing and attacks from the Syrian government forces. These forces, aided by Russian fighter jets, have caused the deaths of an estimated 520 civilians, including 123 children, in the last seven days. The humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières has called for a cease fire to allow assistance to be given to the at least 2,500 persons that have been wounded.

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“In these days, my thoughts are often turned to the beloved and martyred Syria,” the pope said on Sunday, February 25, as news of further atrocities and of the plight of those trapped under the bombs in these and other zones reached the Vatican. Among the recent victims was a member of the Jesuit Refugee Service who was injured in a bomb blast in Damascus on Feb. 19

“This month of February has been one of the most violent months in the seven years of conflict,” Francis said, referring to a war in which according to the United Nations and other sources say some 500,000 Syrians have been killed since the conflict began in 2011. In this country of around 18 million people, that is about 1,000 people per week. By March 2017, more than 5 million Syrians have fled the country and over 6 million are internally displaced, because of a conflict that pits rebel forces, Kurdish forces, the Islamic State and other groups against the forces of the Assad regime that is being helped by the Russians, Iran, and others, and which has seen the involvement of Turkey, the United States, the European Union, China and Israel.

Referring to the month of February, Francis said there have been “hundreds, thousands of civilian victims—children, women and old people” and, furthermore “hospitals have been hit” and “the people cannot get something to eat.”

“All this is inhuman!” he stated in a strong voice. “One cannot fight evil with another evil.... I therefore make a heartfelt appeal that the violence ceases immediately, that access be given to humanitarian aid—food and medicines—and that the wounded and the sick be evacuated,” he said.

He prayed “that this can happen without further delay” and asked the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square to join him in reciting the “Ave Maria” for this purpose.

His appeal came in the wake of a unanimous agreement reached yesterday at the United Nations in New York, after three days of frustrating negotiations, that envisages a truce throughout Syria, including in the rebel-held district of eastern Ghouta. But the accord gave no date for the start of the truce.

Pope Francis, along with his predecessor, Benedict XVI, and the Holy See, have long pressed for an end to the war that seems to have disappeared from the radar of international attention. But Francis is determined to keep the international spotlight on it and so, last Friday, he included Syria in the day of fast and prayer for peace which originally was meant to focus on South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said recently in reference to the seven-year conflict in Syria, “The conduct and management of this war has been utterly shameful from the outset, and the failure to end it marks an epic failure of global diplomacy.”

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rose-ellen caminer
5 months 3 weeks ago

The only thing western politician have ever said is ;its complicated. No one ever said that the holocaust against Jews or against the Yazidis or against the people of Darfur was "complicated" ."Complicated" or not these are ongoing crimes against humanity which all nations have a moral obligation to intervene to stop. Whether this is a proxy war as the pundits say or not , is irrelevant morally to the obligation to intervene on behalf of ending the mass murder of civilians by a police state . For years a holocaust of Sunni Syrians has been going on for the world to witness . It is atrocious the worlds indifference. Its even worse how Americans will vilify Russia for posting political propaganda online[ so much for freedom of speech , political speech on the borderless internet] during the campaign, like that was the most horrible thing a country could do, while remaining indifferent to Putin's role in this holocaust. The blood is on the hands of Obama and Trump and the UN and all these countries whose only concern is that ISIS be destroyed but are allowing a regime to launch a campaign of mass murder and torture of men women and children! Horrific, absolutely horrific, the snail pace of reactions is deliberate complicity with genocide of Sunni Syrians[imo].
Anti Semitism is alive and well, in the 21st century it is directed at Semitic Sunni Muslims as this holocaust goes on and the world does nothing. The victims; the refugees are smeared by the Americans and denied safe haven. Complicity with genocide!

Carlos Orozco
5 months 3 weeks ago

America's role (and that of its Western allies) in the Syrian war has been a continuous war crime. A true war crime. Drunk by the "success" of the Libyan coup d'etat, the Obama administration tried to implement the same game plan in Syria: arm terrorist Salafist groups, let the presstitutes in the corporate media cry evil dictator, diplomatically isolate a sovereign nation, and finish off the regime with military strikes on a demolarized army. Ancient Christians communities were among the expendable groups, geopolitics and control of natural resources first and foremost.

Thank God Vladimir Putin did not stand by the sidelines this time --that is why he has been my political hero since then. Thank God ISIS has been almost completely destroyed. Thank God the al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda in Syria, the strongest "rebel group" left in Syria) is being decimated. Thank God for the heroic resistance of the Syrian Arab Army that stood its ground and was not up for sale. Thank God for the Christians that survived such a terrible trial, and have been active for years in the struggle to defeat the same forces of evil that tried to erradicate them. Let's agree that talk of ecumenism with terrorists is not realistic.

Are forces loyal to al-Assad perfect? Of course not. Are these forces clean of war crimes? No. Are war crimes ever acceptable? Never! But, to put some historical perspective, were forces that defeated the Third Reich and Imperial Japan free from war crimes? Of course not (indiscriminate bombings of complete German cities, decimation of German POWs in Allied hands through starvation and disease, campaign of rape against women, nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, etc). Should forces that back the Syrian regime take measures to minimize civilian suffering? Absolutely! Women, children and elderly living under Salafist rule already have to bear a hell as it is. But make no mistake, the fall of the mostly secular al-Assad dictator, if the imperial warmongers and their hypocritical R2P partners had their way, would have left Syria's population at the mercy of SSIS/al-Qaeda and its natural resources in the hands of their REAL patrons: megacorporations of the banking-industrial-military complex (current Libyan situation).

The war in Syria is not over, and that nation's territorial integrity is in question by new plans of destabilization implemented by the Trump administration supporting philomarxist Kurdish paramilitary forces (a first in American foreign policy) and open invasion by Turkey. I guess only prayer and fasting can clean this mess... and let's not forget the wars in Africa thar receive far less press than Syria.

rose-ellen caminer
5 months 3 weeks ago

The Assad dictatorship is behaving like the third Reich, as it has created a hell on earth for Syrian Sunnis. What Assad is dong is not just a one off war crimes but a systematic campaign of mass murder of Sunni civilians. This is acceptable to you? If allies committed war crimes in world war two that means that today we should allow a policy of mass murder of civilians by a dictatorship to continue? ISIS has been decimated but the war in Syria is not primarily about ISIS. Or fundamentalism. Ask the refugees who they are escaping from. The [secularized,non fundie] people rose up peacefully against a brutal dictatorship and Assad and Putin have been murdering all opponents to its regime since. The US has done nothing to stop it . The policy of the US is to decry the regime and do nothing. And that is enough for you to say we are engaged against the Syrian regime?

If terrorist groups are part of the resistance to this mass murdering regime, that is no reason to support the regime. Yes we should engage in talks with the terrorists if that will end the killing. Labeling all rebel groups Salafists fanatics is neither true nor a reason to allow Assad to continue his mass murdering atrocities. The Syrian Sunnis are neither ISIs fanatics, not Alquada and so it is a lame excuse to say that if Assad topples, Syria would become a fundie theocracy.. This is Assad/Putin propaganda. But even if it were true, it still would not justify what the Assad regime is doing to real people, to men, women and children.I don't care what label you put on them, or your Assadesque prognosis of what would follow if Assad fell. Nothing can be worse then what is going on now. Mankind is us now.Where is your humanity? There are real men women and children having barrel bombs exploded on them., all manner of horrors and all you care about is what would follow if Assad were toppled? You actually support Putin in dropping these bombs on children? As long as they are not Christian? On hospitals? As long as they are not Christians? Unbelievable the power of manipulation; to be able to witness to the suffering of other people including children and still support the perpetrators! You laud Putin who does this to other human beings, because his targets are not Christians? How are you different then the Nazis, or the terrorists with this mindset? Where is your humanity, hiding behind world war two? Even if the ends justify the means, how is Assad remaining in power a desirable end, now that ISIS been defeated? The war did not start out with ISIS but with secular Syrians rising up against a brutal decades long police state dictatorship. One we had sanctions on for decades because it was deemed so evil;who proceeded to kill all peaceful dissenters. ISIS and fundi terrorist groups are not the issue now as they weren't when the dissent started.

Libya is not Syria. Different dynamics are in play in Libya then in Syria. It is rather bigoted, or at least willfully ignorant to lump all ME politics together. And Syria is not Iraq. In Iraq after we toppled the Sunni regime, we murdered all the Sunnis of Baghdad, and installed a Shia/Kurd government with a greenlight to persecute the Sunnis of Iraq. This created ISIS [as fanatics, many internet converts and other ignormamusues or psychopaths from everywhere on earth formed ISIS].ISIS has been decimated in Syria and [mostly]Iraq so to justify a holocaust on the grounds that the civilians being killed by bombs and chemicals and Assad's torture prisons are better off then living under ISIS extremism is not just atrocious ,but a false dichotomy.

Contrasting the Syrian war; [it 's not a war, its a Stalinist like campaign of mass murder] ,with wars in Africa, is race baiting. The press coverage of the war in Syria amounts to nothing more then showing us the horrors going on and then reminding us that it is 'complicated'. We or other western countries ARE involved in wars in Africa and as far as I know there is no war there where a dictatorship is bombing civilians with impunity for years, When it was occurring in Darfur, we, the west put a stop to it.

Carlos Orozco
5 months 3 weeks ago

Rosse-Ellen, you have distorted what I have written.

1) I never justified war crimes, I specifically wrote they were never justified. The reason I mentioned some of the crimes committed by Allied forces during WWII is because al-Assad is hypocritically portrayed in the corporate media as a monster that committs crimes that have no predence. That is just a historical lie. Al-Assad is no competition for Hitler nor Stalin, even Churchill and Truman did far worse.

2) The US has just been watching Assad do a lot of killing? No, actually it was the CIA-orchestrated Arab Spring that destabilized the entire ME. Muslim Brotherhood took over in Egypt for some time, ISIS/al-Qaeda took Libya, and they would have taken over Syria if not for the Syrian Arab Army and Putin. Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Yemenis and Syrians can all agree that the best thing America can do for them is stay out of their problems. Criminal elements such as senators McCain and Graham, along with former President Obama and Hillary Clinton organized what the Nuremberg trials defined as "wars of aggression".

3) ISIS/al-Qaeda ARE the problem in Syria. Can you name a single "moderate" rebel group that can match them in the battlefield? That is why the secular forces in Syria that at the beginning of the conflict opposed Assad, have mostly reached an agreement with the Syrian regime. The prospect of Salafists taking over Syria was real. Let's not kid ourselves, there can be no negotiations with the ISIS/al-Qaeda death cult.

4) The Assad regime is not in an extermination campaign against its Sunni population. That is a blatant lie. The majority of Syria is Sunni Muslim. Refugees have constantly voted with their feet, so to speak. Assad does not want a desserted Syria at the mercy of its powerful neighbors. The vast
majority of refugees has fled to government-controlled areas. The clear example was divided Aleppo: extremists shot anybody trying to flee from the rebel held districts.

5) I agree with you that Syrian Sunnis are not fanatics. The truly powerful military threat has come from foreign jihadists, sponsored directly and indirectly by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and, until recently, the United States.

6) I am sensible to all victims, and I specifically stated that Syrian regime forces should do more to limit the suffering caused on civilians by their advance on an enemy that has no morals.

7) I cannot apologize for thinking first and foremost of Christians caught in the conflict. They were nearly wiped out by the Salafist forces in both Syria and Iraq. Even children were beheaded and crucified by "freedom fighters" because of their faith. That churches are open again is a true miracle, the example of Chrisitans in the ME should be studied and admired by the Church, they just went through Calvary.

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