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Archbishops express ‘horror and sorrow’ at violence in Syria

A boy rides a bicycle through a damaged part of Deir al-Zor in Syria (Photo: CNS)

The Archbishop of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury have issued a joint statement expressing their “horror” and “sorrow” at the escalating violence in Syria, following the kidnap of two bishops of Aleppo.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster together with Archbishop Justin Welby today urged churches in Syria to “remain steadfast in the face of challenging realities and to bear witness to their faith in the power of love in this world.”

They said: “Since the very first days of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, we have prayed as we watched in horror and sorrow the escalating violence that has rent this country apart. We have grieved with all Syrians – with the families of each and every human life lost and with all communities whose neighbourhoods and livelihoods have suffered from escalating and pervasive violence.

“And today, our prayers also go with the ancient communities of our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria. The kidnapping this week of two Metropolitan bishops of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, and the killing of their driver while they were carrying out a humanitarian mission, is another telling sign of the terrible circumstances that continue to engulf all Syrians.

“We unreservedly support these Christian communities, rooted in and attached to the biblical lands, despite the many hardships.”

The concluded: “We both continue to pray for a political solution to this tragic conflict that would stem the terrible violence and also empower all Syrians with their fundamental and inalienable freedoms. We also call for urgent humanitarian aid to reach all who are suffering. We pray that Syria can recapture its tradition of tolerance, rooted in faith and respect for faiths living side by side.”

During a briefing in parliament yesterday, Cafod warned MPs that they saw no end in sight for the conflict in Syria.

Mike Noyes, Cafod’s Head of Humanitarian Programmes, told MPs: “All we know suggests the levels of suffering, displacement and refugees will most likely grow. We haven’t seen such a destabilising level of cross-border movement in terms of numbers and impact since the break-up of Yugoslavia.”

According to the UN, more than 1.3 million refugees have fled into neighbouring countries, although, with many refugees unwilling or unable to register, the true figure is likely to be far higher.

The Lebanese government recently announced that there were more than one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon alone.