Damascus (Agenzia Fides) – After the earthquake that hit large areas in northern Syria on Monday, February 6, economic embargoes and sanctions imposed by Western countries and organizations against the Syrian Arab Republic must be lifted immediately. The peremptory request comes from Patriarchs and Heads of Churches and ecclesial communities residing in Syria.
The earthquake claimed thousands of lives in Syria, sowing destruction and multiplying the suffering of the Syrian people, already bent under the weight of the war, the pandemic, inflation and the lack of natural resources, medicines and basic necessities. Faced with such a devastated land and nation, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches and ecclesial communities present in Syria appeal to the United Nations, as well as a direct appeal to the nations that have been imposing sanctions and economic embargoes to Syria led by Bashar al Assad, asking them to immediately abolish these measures defined as “unjust” and to launch instead exceptional and timely humanitarian initiatives to help the Syrian populations overwhelmed by unsustainable disasters.
The request of the Christian leaders is entrusted to a statement signed, among others, by Mar Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syriac Orthodox, by Yohanna X, Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek Orthodox, and by Youssef I Absi, Patriarch of Antioch Melkite Greek Catholics. “We also call on people of living conscience around the world to raise their voices to demand an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and to allow Syrian citizens to live in dignity, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.
The earthquake – reads the communiqué of the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Syria – destroyed places of worship, health facilities, social assistance centres, fueling a further increase in the number of homeless and internally displaced persons at the very time of the harshest winter.
In their statement, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches assured the victims of the earthquake and their families of their prayers, prayed for the healing of the injured and for all those involved in the relief, asking governments, international institutions and humanitarian organizations to intervene to help the Syrian people, regardless of any political considerations or calculations.
The sanctions and economic blockades imposed for years by Western countries against the government in Damascus, introduced in 2011, continue to be prolonged with the intention of causing the collapse of the system led by President Bashar al Asad. Over the years, on countless occasions, Church bodies and Patriarchs and Bishops have harshly criticized these provisions, which have serious consequences on the daily lives of millions of Syrians, and called for their suspension or abolition. “Perpetuating the sanctions against Syria”, said Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, Apostolic Vicar (now emeritus) of Aleppo for Catholics of the Latin rite, to Fides in November 2021 “means condemning many people to death” (see Fides, 20/11/2021). After the earthquake, the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), an ecumenical liaison body of the Churches and ecclesial communities present in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, also called for “the immediate lifting of the sanctions against Syria and access to all resources, so that sanctions do not turn into a crime against humanity”