The Vatican representative to the United Nations agencies in Geneva said on Tuesday the “needs of Christians” and other religious minorities must be “taken into serious consideration” at UN-sponsored talks aimed at ending the Syrian civil war.
The United Nations has issued invitations for talks aimed at finding a political solution to the ongoing Syria crisis. The talks are scheduled to begin on Friday in Geneva, and last for 6 months. The UN said the first priority is a broad ceasefire, providing humanitarian aid, and halting the threat posed by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
“We hope the specific needs of the Christians, the Yazidis, and other communities that are not part of the Muslim majority be taken into serious consideration,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva.
“If we hope for an authentic ceasefire and possible beginning of reconstruction of the social and material fabric of society in Syria, then the human rights of these communities have to be taken into account,” Archbishop Tomasi told Vatican Radio.
The five-year conflict has killed over 250,000 people, and sent over 4 million fleeing the country. Another 6.5 million people are internally displaced within Syria, with over 13 million people in urgent need of humanitarian aid.
“The victims of the violence in Syria and northern Iraq – the majority of the victims – have so far been Muslim, but Christians are particularly targeted for persecution and discrimination,” the Vatican diplomat said.
The first phase of the talks could last two to three weeks before preparations are made for further phases, and the United Nations said there will be a substantial presence of civil society and women.
“We hope, if not directly and specifically represented in the negotiations which will start next Friday, at least indirectly and then later on when other participants will join in the dialogue, that Christians, in particular, be specifically represented,” Archbishop Tomasi said.
Source: Radio Vatican