Aram I, Church Leaders Call for Action Ahead of Syria Talks

His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia (left), greets the United Nations-Arab League joint representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi

GENEVA—With the Geneva 2 talks on Syria scheduled for 22 January, some 30 church leaders from Syria and around the world gathered a week ahead of time at the headquarters of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva, Switzerland, and called for substantial action to be taken at the talks to end the armed conflict.

In a message to be delivered to Geneva 2 by Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations-Arab League joint representative for Syria, the group which is convinced there is no military solution, said in the message that there needed to be “immediate cessation of all armed confrontation and hostility within Syria”, thus ensuring that “all vulnerable communities in Syria and refugees in neighboring countries receive appropriate humanitarian assistance” and that “a comprehensive and inclusive process toward establishing a just peace and rebuilding Syria” should be developed.

“There is no time to waste; enough people have died or had to leave their homes,” Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, said following the meeting. “As churches we speak with one voice.”

The church leaders and representatives came from the Middle East, the Vatican, Russia, other European nations and the United States and included representatives from Syrian churches, the Middle East Council of Churches, the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox, Protestants, and Anglicans.

The meeting, called the Ecumenical Consultation on Syria and sponsored by the WCC, was held 15 to17 January. It is a follow up to a similar meeting in September 2013 sponsored by the WCC which also included Brahimi and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

“We are representing the silent majority, the voice of the voiceless,” said Catholicos Aram I, head of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church, to Brahimi who consulted with the group on Thursday afternoon, 15 January.

“Your mission is not an easy one,” His Holiness continued. “It is a critical, crucial mission. You can be sure that you have our full support, the full support of all churches, the full support of the global Christian community.”

The meeting was accompanied by an ecumenical prayer held on the evening of 16 January, also joined by the members of the international community to express their solidarity with the people of Syria, expressing hopes for peace in the country.

The service drew attention to the great antiquity of the Christian presence in Syria, as well as the commitment of Syria’s Christians, inspired by the New Testament to transform violence and oppression into healing and reconciliation.

Church leaders and representatives from Syria, the Middle East Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches and the Holy See issued a statement for Geneva 2 talks on Syria.

In the statement the leaders stressed the urgent need for the cessation of violence, humanitarian assistance to affected communities, and the development of a just process for rebuilding Syria, led by the people of Syria.

In their statement, the leaders also stressed the importance of restoring and maintaining Syria’s “vibrant mosaic” of cultural and religious diversity by ensuring independence for Syria and equal human rights for all citizens of the country.

“As Christians we speak with one voice in calling for a just peace in Syria. To achieve this peace, we are committed to working hand-in-hand with Muslim sisters and brothers, with whom we share a common history along with spiritual and social values. We seek to work for national reconciliation and healing through building trust,” the statement concludes.