Ecumenical News International

Church leaders press for political solution for Syria

September 19, 2013

Geneva (epd). Church representatives from Russia, the United States, Europe and Syria have called for a political solution for the conflict in Syria. "We believe that there can be no military solution to the crisis in Syria," said the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Olav Fykse Tveit, on Thursday, after a meeting in Geneva. Also attending the consultation were former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria, the Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi.

The church leaders underlined in a communiqué that the long planned second peace conference on Syria ("Geneva II") should take place as quickly as possible. The first peace conference on Syria in 2012 had not been able to stop the bloodshed but dialogue between the warring parties was still the only way to finally end the conflict.

The church leaders urged the UN Security Council to adopt without delay a Syria resolution on the basis of the 14 September agreement of the Russian-American foreign ministers. They called on the governments of the United States and Russia to exercise their special
responsibility and "collaborate to convince national and foreign parties to the conflict to put an end to the violence".

General Secretary Tveit underlined that the church leaders were not just deeply concerned about the suffering of Christians in Syria. They were striving to ease the hardship for all population groups and the members of all religious communities.

Martin Schindehütte, the EKD's bishop for ecumenical relation, attended the consultation for the Evangelical Church in Germany. Other participants included Metropolitan Hilarion, the "foreign minister" of the Moscow Patriarchate and Armenian Archbishop Vicken Aykazian. Representing Syria were Patriarch Gregorius III Laham, the highest Catholic dignitary in the Middle East, Metropolitan Eustathius Matta Roham and Bishops Armash Nalbandian and Dimitrios Charbak. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, was also present.

Before the outbreak of confrontation between the dictatorial regime of Bashar al-Assad and the opposition in March 2011 about two million Christians lived among the overall 21 million Syrians. Many of them have now fled abroad to escape the violence. The Christian minority were able to practice their religion without restriction under Assad. Christians are also privileged economically. "Christians in Syria are an integral part of a diverse society with a rich history," the consultation communiqué stated.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) comprises 349 churches with over 500 million members. They also include a number of Syrian churches.

19 September 2013



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