Who appointed them as ‘policemen of democracy’ in the Middle East? ”
Article from the U.S. based National Catholic Register by Edward Pentin
In a break from his more usual diplomatic style, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, has lambasted the proposed policy of the U.S. government and its allies to launch air strikes against Syria.
In a forceful statement, released Wednesday, he questions the authority of these states to launch an attack, wonders who appointed them to be "policemen of democracy", and warns of the risk of more civilian casualties.
Each of his four points is an attempt to appeal to reason:
• “Why declare war when UN experts have not yet delivered the definitive findings on the chemical nature of the attack and the formal identity of its agents? We witness here a logic reminiscent of the Iraq war preparation in 2003. Do not repeat the ‘comedy’ of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, when there were none. Today the country is still in a very critical situation.”
• “How do you decide to attack a nation, a country? By what authority? While the U.S. president has the power to launch air strikes alone against Syria [while informing Congress], but what about the Arab League and the UN Security Council? Our friends in the West and the United States have not been attacked by Syria. With what legitimacy do they dare attack a country? Who appointed them as ‘policemen of democracy’ in the Middle East? ”
• “Has anyone seriously thought about the consequences of such a war for Syria and its neighboring countries? Is there a need to increase the number of deaths, now over 100,000? It is necessary to listen to all those living in Syria, who cry out their pain and suffering that has lasted for two and a half years. Has anyone thought of the mothers, children and innocent people? And countries that will attack Syria, have they taken into consideration that their citizens, embassies and consulates throughout the world may be the target of attacks and bombings in retaliation?”
• “More broadly, have we measured the consequences for the Middle East region? According to observers, the attacks should be specifically targeted and concentrated on a few strategic sites in order to prevent further use of chemical weapons. We know from experience that a targeted attack will have collateral consequences – in particular, strong reactions that could ignite the region.”
Some argue that comparisons cannot be made with the Iraq War. That involved a full invasion, while this is expected to be short, targeted air strikes designed to punish. But there is real fear that such action will escalate this conflict and cause more suffering to innocent civilians.
“My goodness, this is grievous - we are really scared,” Archbishop Maroun Laham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told Vatican Radio yesterday. “Violence begets more violence,” he said.
Moreover, he stressed the region’s Christians are highly suspicious about the motives for such military action, especially given continuing doubts over the culpability of the chemical attack.
“This interest, on the part of the United States or of Europe, for human rights or for the defense of the weak, no one believes. No one believes it!,” Archbishop Laham said.
“All seek their own political and economic interests. So, since no one believes their good will, we do not want this wish for war applied to Syria. We hope that the voice of reason, and for us, of faith, will prevail and that the Syrian crisis find a political solution.”
His comments follow a series of similar statements from other bishops in the region, and the Holy See's view that dialogue is the "only option."
Although the British parliament yesterday voted against military action, the U.S. government appears determined to press ahead. France’s President Francois Hollande today said he continued to back targeted air strikes. Original article here.
Article from the Vatican’s Pontifical Missions news service, Fides.
Hassaké (Agenzia Fides ) - "It is easy to pave the way for air strikes on Syria, but it is difficult to end the war and the consequences of these attacks throughout the Middle East": is the comment, entrusted to Fides Agency by Eustathius Matta Roham, Syro-Orthodox Metropolitan Archbishop of "Jazirah and Euphrates", worried and saddened by the situation that the country is experiencing . "Everywhere, in Syria and outside Syria , the faithful are praying to ward off an attack by foreign countries against Syria and in order to build peace in the whole region. We all pray that our Lord Jesus Christ enlightens the minds of the people in power, so that they act according to justice and peace, for the sake of human beings".
The Archbishop informs Fides Agency on the situation in the governorate of Hassake, in eastern Syria, bordering Turkey and Iraq. "Flights at the civil airport of Kamichly, as well as in all other Syrian airports are blocked. Even ground transportation from Kamichly to all other Syrian cities and to Lebanon are blocked. The population, already suffering for the conflict, fears a worsening of the situation", with further consequences of hunger and misery.
Another Syrian Catholic Bishop, who requested anonymity, explains to Fides Agency: "Today it is impossible to imagine the future of this country, once a peaceful land and home for all refugees of the Middle East. The most dramatic thing has been the absence of any form of dialogue in the last three years, while anguish and despair inhabit these people".
"This conflict - continues the Bishop - has turned Syria into a battlefield, destroying the world of work, the innocence of childhood, the peace of families, as well as infrastructure, schools, places of worship, houses and hospitals". "It is a cruel tragedy - he concludes - a small nation carries such a heavy cross, in silence". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 30/08/2013). Original article here.
Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch for the Eastern United States, says he opposes to violence, whether by the Syrian regime or the opposition, but doesn't believe the solution is a U.S. strike against the country. Interview on New Yersy Today.
Update: 05/09/2013, Hala Gorani from CNN speaks with Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim of the Syrian Orthodox Church who says escalation won't solve the Syrian crisis. View here.
On Monday evening, 26/08/2013 the headquarters of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East in the predominantly Christian district of at Bab Touma (Thomas Gate), Damascus, was partially damaged due to a mortar shell attack by rebels.
“In just 6 days we have rained on our heads more than 20 mortar shells. Some erupted between the houses, on the roofs of other churches, one in a girls' school run by the Catholic Church. It is now clear, this neighbourhood inhabited by Christians is a goal.” Witness testimony from a resident in Bab Touma can be read in Italian here.
Thousands of innocent civilians and displaced families, including women, old people, children, have taken refuge in the city of Kamishly and Hassaké (eastern Syria), who must absolutely be "preserved and saved by the conflict, in order to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe." Read the rest of the appeal here.
In the Kurdish majority region of N.E. Syria in the city of Qamishli on Wednesday 21 November 2012 after 3 days of
fasting the community gathered at the Syriac Orthodox Church of Our Lady praying for peace and security in Syria. Since this time the area has
been seriously affected by the conflict in Syria, opposition forces refused to recognise the desire of the community to remain as a neutral zone for their own safety and that of the tens of
thousands who had fled in to the area seeking a safe haven.
In the Kurdish majority region of N.E. Syria in the city Hasakah on Wednesday 5 of December 2012 all segments of society, Christian denominations and the Kurdish parties and Arab tribes gathered to pray with one voice for peace in Syria and in the area in general. Opposition forces refused to recognise the desire of the community to remain as a neutral zone for their own safety and that of the tens of thousands who had fled in to the area seeking a safe haven within that region.
Article from the Japan Times here
Article from France 24 here
Article from AsiaNews.it a Catholic media outlet focused on news from the Near and Far East.
The Catholic Patriarch of Antioch calls on Western countries to listen to the Pope’s appeal. Armed action will destroy any possibility of future dialogue and reconciliation. The Christians will be ghettoized. Without them, there can be no moderate Islam. The disappearance of Christians is a threat for the West and the Arab world.
Beirut (AsiaNews) - "We must listen to the Pope's appeal for peace in Syria. If western countries want to create true democracy then they must build it on reconciliation, through dialogue between
Christians and Muslims, not with weapons. This attacked being planned by the United States is a criminal act, which will only reap more victims, in addition to the tens of thousands of these two
years of war. This will destroy the Arab world's trust in the West", says Gregory III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch of the East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem of the Melkites. His appeal entrusted to
AsiaNews comes just a few hours after rumors of an imminent United States attack against Damascus. The intervention is supported by other countries: France, Great Britain, Turkey and the Arab
League. The religious leader has sent out Pope Francis' August 25 appeal to all of Syria's parishes.
"The voice of Christians - said the Patriarch - is that of the Holy Father. At this time we must be pragmatic. Syria needs stability and an armed attack against the government really has no sense at all".
Gregory III asks, "What or who have led Syria to this thin red line, this point of no return? Who created this hell in which our people have been living for months?". "Every day - he explains -
Islamic extremists from all over the world are pouring into Syria with the sole intent to kill and not one country has done anything to stop them, even the U.S. has decided to send in more
weapons." The prelate stresses that the planned U.S. attack will affect the Syrian population above all and is no less serious than the use of chemical weapons.
According to the Patriarch, Western countries continue to support a non existent opposition, which has no authority on the ground in Syria. "All preparation for the Geneva 2 Conference - he said - has been stopped. The word dialogue is now forgotten. For months the Western countries have wasted time in discussions, while people were dying under Assad's bombs and attacks by Islamic al-Qaeda extremists."
Gregory III warns that a possible victory of the Islamists will give birth to a country divided into small enclaves, which will force Christians into a ghetto. "Our community dwindles every day. Young people are fleeing, families leave their homes and villages." For the prelate, "the disappearance of the Christians is a danger not only for Syria, but for all of Europe." "Our presence - he says - is the essential condition for a moderate Islam, which exists thanks to the Christians. If we leave, there can be no democracy in Syria. This is supported also by the Muslims themselves, who fear the Islamist's madness . Many say that they cannot live where there are no Christians". (S.C.) Original article here.
Article from AsiaNews.it a Catholic media outlet focused on news from the Near and Far East.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Department for External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, condemns threats of NATO intervention without a UN mandate. More victims will be "sacrificed on the altar of an imaginary democracy".
Moscow (AsiaNews) - As a Western military intervention against the regime of Bashar al-Assad appears increasingly likely, the Russian Orthodox Church expresses "strong concern" about possible developments of the crisis, this following US charges that the regime used chemical weapons against civilians.
"Once again, as was the case in Iraq, the United States is acting as an international executioner", said Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department for External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church strongly criticised the US position, which is "completely one-sided."
"Without the endorsement of the United Nations, they want to decide the fate of a whole country of millions of inhabitants."
"Once again," Hilarion warned, "thousands of lives will be sacrificed on the altar of an imaginary democracy;" among them, according to the Metropolitan, there are, first of all, "Christians, about whose fate no one cares."
They are at "risk of becoming hostages to the situation and the main victims of radical extremist forces, who, with the help of the United States, will come to power."
"The international community," he concluded, "must do everything to avoid that events develop in this direction." (M.A.) Original article here.
Article from the Lebanese daily newspaper Al-Akhbar and AFP (Agence France-Press)
The Vatican's official daily on Tuesday blasted western powers for preparing possible military action against Syria despite an ongoing UN investigation into an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus.
"The tones are becoming ever more drastic and the action being taken by the United Nations appears subjected to a sort of crossfire," the newspaper said.
"Various international actors appear no longer to consider the investigation a determining factor," it said, adding that "what commitment there was" to a negotiated settlement "appears to be dying out."
The Vatican's permanent observer at the United Nations in Geneva, Monsignor Silvano Tomasi, last week cast doubt on the Syrian government's responsibility for the apparent chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus.
The Vatican is against any armed intervention, pointing to the havoc caused by the US-led war to topple Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003. Original article here
Article from the Lebanese digital media outlet, Naharnet.
A Syrian Chaldean Catholic bishop on Monday warned that an armed intervention in Syria could unleash a "world war", while the Vatican's official newspaper called for more "prudence" from Western powers.
"If there is an armed intervention, that would mean, I believe, a world war. That risk has returned," Monsignor Antoine Audo of Aleppo told Vatican radio.
"We hope that the pope's call for real dialogue between the warring parties to find a solution can be a first step to stop the fighting," he said.
Audo is also the head of the Syrian arm of the international Catholic charity Caritas and has repeatedly warned about the human cost of the war.
The Vatican daily, L'Osservatore Romano, meanwhile criticized Western powers in an editorial.
"The drumbeat of an armed intervention by Western powers is becoming ever more insistent and ever less restrained by prudence," it said.
"Several representatives of these countries say they are convinced that the accusation that the Syrian army used chemical weapons is founded -- a question which the United Nations is investigating," he said.
Pope Francis on Sunday called for the international community to help find a solution to the civil war.
"I launch an appeal to the international community to be more sensitive to this tragic situation and to commit itself to the maximum to help the dear Syrian nation find a solution to a war which spreads destruction and death," he said. Original article here.
Article from Terrasanta.net a media outlet of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.
Translated from Italian.
The Syrian Christians "have been betrayed and sold by the West' attacks the Syrian Catholic Patriarch Youssef III Younan. In the days when discussing military intervention, the patriarch once again criticizes "the cynical and machiavellian politics" of powers in these two and a half years they have armed the rebels, only to realize that there can be no military solution to the crisis.
Patriarch Younan, a few days ago another one of your priests was wounded in Damascus. What is known about his condition? Father Qassar Amer is 34 years old and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Damascus in 2003. He is the pastor of our church in Qatanah in the south of the capital. This past Wednesday, August 21 at around 6 p.m. he was going to the church of Our Lady of Fatima, in the centre of Damascus, when a bomb exploded just a few feet from him, seriously injuring him in the face, stomach and legs. He was in surgery for hours and, from what his brother told me, thank God, he is a bit 'better, but cannot speak. We pray for his recovery.
The United States and France are planning to intervene militarily. What do you think? Instead of helping the various parties to the conflict to find ways of reconciliation, start the dialogue for reforms based on a pluralist system of government, these powers until now have armed the rebels, incited violence and poisoned yet more relations between Sunnis and Shiites. The West thinks that with the Sunnis in government democracy will replace the dictatorship, but this is a great illusion: regime change by force, without giving security to the secular parties of inspiration, will trigger a conflict worse than in Iraq.
You often pointed out the ambiguity of the West to the Gulf monarchies. Do you still consider these countries share responsibility for the war in Syria? Certainly, because we are disappointed by the machiavellian cynical politics in these countries and the West: France, Great Britain, United States ... they see oil and forget their principles. For more than two years, along with Turkey, they are saying that the regime will fall: this is the biggest lie told to the respective public opinions or the worst mistake of calculation that has been made over the past decade. The regime is still there, the country is destroyed and more than 100,000 people dead. We Christians have been betrayed and sold for oil. The West supports democracy in the name of the regimes that have nothing democratic about them: Qatar and Saudi Arabia are among the most backward countries of the world. Their leaders are received in palaces like western heroes of democracy, of political pluralism and tolerance!
Why the escalation of violence against Christians? The entire population suffers, but Christians in particular. They are victims of hatred of a community that thinks to defend the cause of God, even by force. Two months ago, another of our priest, François Mourad, was killed in the convent of Ghassanieh, in the North West of Syria, on the border with Turkey, by the terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusrah (al-Qaeda Victory Front) and another massacre of twenty Christians took place ten days ago west of Homs. Original article here
Article from the Palestinian Ma'an News Agnecy. Translated from Arabic.
- Ma'an - Archbishop Theodosios (Atallah Hanna) of Sebastia Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem said on Sunday evening in Jerusalem when he met and greeted a delegation of Americans peace
activists that "we appeal to all those of goodwill and good intentions in this world to work to prevent any military action against Syria because this will bring more destruction and devastation,
murder and the fall of innocent people.”
The Archbishop said in his meeting with the delegation, which came in solidarity with the Palestinian people "that the threat of the US administration and the West of military action against Syria would have disastrous ramifications not only for Syria but for the whole region, we hope political leaders in the West will think twice before taking such a decision."
He added that "these countries that claim concern for the Syrian people instead of fuelling conflict and pouring oil on the fire, if concerned about the Syrian people, should contribute to resolving the crisis peacefully through encouraging all the Syrian parties to dialogue to reach an understanding and a solution guaranteeing the unity of Syria that would avert disaster. We believe that the solution to the Syrian crisis must be through understanding the two sides, their cooperation and their dialogue and not through military intervention which would have disastrous repercussions for everyone. Syrian people are keen to promote a political solution, not a military solution, those who threaten and think of military intervention in Syria, do not think in the interest of the Syrian people and their goal is to destroy, drain and weaken this country known for its service in the Arab region.”
He encouraged the delegation to pressure the U.S. administration and its allies to prevent any military action, in order to have a peaceful political solution as Syrians are the ones who decide the fate of their country without any foreign intervention. Original article in Arabic here.
Report from Vatican Radio
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Rai, says Christians always pay the highest price when conflicts erupt in Middle East countries such as Egypt, Syria and Iraq. Cardinal Rai also said that outside
countries, especially in the West but also elsewhere, are helping to foment these conflicts.
"Speaking in an interview with Vatican Radio, Cardinal Rai says the situation in the Middle East is becoming more and more critical as each day passes. He said whenever a conflict breaks out in the Middle East, whenever chaos ensues, Muslim groups attack the minority Christian community, as if they were always the scapegoat.
The Lebanese Patriarch said all Christians are asking for is security and stability and spoke of how throughout the Arab world Christians respect the institutions, the authorities and the constitution. Thanks to the presence of us Christians and our daily life in all these Arab countries, he said, we have created a certain moderation in the Muslim world. Speaking about the tensions between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and the Christian community in Egypt, Cardinal Rai said it was a known fact that once in power, the Muslim Brotherhood were seeking to introduce Shariah law. Certainly, he said, the Christians are against this and want a reformed and democratic Egypt, an Egypt that knows how to respect human rights.
When asked how he sees the future, Cardinal Rai spoke of his belief that there is a plan to destroy the Arab world for political and economic interests. There’s also, he added, a plan to exacerbate as much as possible the inter-confessional conflicts between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. The Maronite Patriarch said he had already written to the Pope to express his concern about this issue on two occasions."
asked how he sees the future, Cardinal Rai spoke of his belief that there is a plan to destroy the Arab world for political and economic interests. There’s also, he added, a plan to exacerbate as
much as possible the inter-confessional conflicts between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. The Maronite Patriarch said he had already written to the Pope to express his concern about this issue on two
occasions." Original article here.
Update 01/09/2013: Lebanon patriarch rejects military action in Syria
Egypt: Full list of the 58 Christian churches, schools, institutions and shops torched by the Muslim-Brotherhood movement in Egypt over a three day
period 14 th to 16th August 2013. View here.
Egypt: In Alexandria an armature video shot by a resident shows a mob blocking cars, checking the passengers inside. When Rafaat Aziz Mina’s taxi was stopped, one of the protesters noted a cross hanging from the rear view mirror. Quickly, the young man was dragged out and kicked, punched and beaten to death. For several minutes, the extremists defiled the lifeless body kicking and spitting on it, concluding their performance by cutting off his head, which they left on the sidewalk. Video here.
Update: 06/09/2013 Bloomburg Business reports on the devastating to one Christian community in the Egyptian southern town of Dalga. Read Here
The Vatican on Thursday called for caution over opposition allegations that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons in an attack in the suburbs of Damascus -- a charge denied by the authorities.
"There should not be a judgement until there is sufficient proof," Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's permanent observer at the United Nations in Geneva, said in an interview with Vatican radio.
"What immediate interest would the government in Damascus have in causing such a tragedy?" he asked, adding that the real question was: "Who does this inhuman crime really benefit?"
Tomasi also restated
the Vatican's opposition to armed intervention in Syria, calling for negotiations "without preconditions" and a "transition government."
"Experience has shown with Iraq and Afghanistan that armed intervention does not bring any constructive results," he said, calling for an end to arms supplies to both the government and the opposition.
The Vatican diplomat also criticised the "incomplete analysis" of the situation in Syria and the Middle East as a whole being made by the media.
"We have seen how unconditional support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has led to more violence," he said.
He said there was also a clear division between "those who want a Sunni government in Syria and those who want to retain a participation by all minorities."
Many Christians in Syria have supported President Bashar al-Assad, seeing him as a guarantor of a multi-confessional state.
The Vatican is concerned about the rise in radical Islamism in the region and the exodus of historic Christian minorities in several countries. Original article here.
A wide-ranging interview with personal insights by Mother Agnes Mariam regarding the conflict in Syria. Mother Agnes Mariam is the Mother Superior of the Monastery of St. James the Mutilated, Qara, Homs, Syria. She acts as a representative of the Mussalaha (Reconciliation) Initiative in Syria and as a spokesperson for the Catholic Media centre for the diocese of Homs.
The following article is an amended version of a personal account given on the “Syria is My Home” Facebook page recounting the tragic murder of Christians in the village of Marmarita, Homs Province, Syria in which 11 were killed including civilians and local protection militia with others injured.
massacred some of those celebrating. Marmarita is located in the important historical area called Wadi al-Nasra “The Valley of the Christians”.
This area is in the vicinity of the 6th century Deir Mar Jurgos, which can be translated into English as “St. George’s Monastery”. St. George is one of the great Christian Saints, and he was Syrian. The patron Saint of England is Saint George, the Syrian. The name George is not English, or European, it is Syrian.
About 150,000 Christians are living in fear in western Syria, in a valley that has been subjected to steady artillery fire by Islamic rebels, the Fides news service reports.
The rebels have been shelling Syrian government forces, which have built barricades in the villages of the Wadi al Nasara, a traditionally Christian region. Families in the 40 villages of the valley—where the population has been increased by the arrival of Christian refugees from Homs and other cities—have seen their homes destroyed by the gunfire, and at least 12 people have been killed.
The Christian residents of the valley, who are mostly Greek Orthodox, emphasize that they are neutral in the Syrian civil war. They have asked rebels to respect their neutrality, and avoid civilian casualties—requests that, to date, have gone unheeded. Original article here
Update 26/08/2013: The population of the valley has increased to aprox 250,000 due to the number of displaced Christians seeking refuge. Source here in Arabic
The party goers were attending a party at the Hotel Wadi, located at Marmarita. The Syrian Security Forces arrived to caution all those present that they should take shelter inside the Hotel, as a nearby check point had been overrun by radical Islamic terrorists. Word reached several young men in the hotel that a young lady, Maya Barcheni, was in trouble and needed medical attention immediately. Those two heroes decided to leave the Hotel by car with the young lady to drive to a nearby medical clinic. In route, the terrorists saw the car and sprayed the car with machine gun fire. They were all killed. Bob Saade was one of the heroes killed.
Some people in cars had felt they could out run the terrorists and make it home safely. They also were all killed by machine gun fire directed at personal cars. These terrorists were not targeting Security Forces, or Police, or Army. They were targeting innocent civilians, of the Christian minority. This was a massacre. Local residents who were among the Home Defense Forces tried to defend their homes and families. They also were killed and injured. Many of the dead were members of the Syrian Socialist National Party.
At one point, the main road leading in and out of Marmarita was occupied by pick-up trucks with heavy artillery guns on swivel turrets, and motorcycle riding terrorists equipped with sophisticated machine guns. Anyone, or anything that moved got shot.