Archbishop’s Syria peace appeal

0220syria_lebanon.jpgBy John Pontifex
 A SENIOR Middle East archbishop has appealed for all sides in Syria to put down their arms and negotiate, saying he fears a descent into full-scale civil war.
Describing the situation in Syria as “desperate”, Archbishop Paul El-Sayeh said action was needed to prevent violence from potentially spreading to his country of Lebanon, which has close links with neighbouring Syria.
Speaking from Lebanon in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop El-Sayeh, Curia Bishop of Antioch based in Beirut, called on the international community to step up action to bring Syria’s Assad regime and rebel forces to the negotiating table.
The prelate, a Maronite-rite Catholic who until last year was Maronite Archbishop of Haifa and the Holy Land, said: “Everybody is suffering in Syria because there is violence coming from every side.
“It is a desperate situation. I wish everyone would sit down and negotiate. Problems cannot be solved by violence.”
The archbishop said the threat of violence spreading to neighbouring Lebanon was highlighted by recent clashes in Tripoli between two sides active in the Syria conflict.
But he said that in Lebanon the desire to avoid a repeat of the 15-year civil war would discourage politicians and people from becoming embroiled in the Syria conflict.
He added: “There is a concern about the violence coming from Syria but at the same time there is an awareness that conflict will not help anyone and that everyone has an interest in not letting the situation deteriorate.
“I do not imagine that there will be a big flare up in Lebanon.”
The archbishop said he doubted if the suffering of Christians was notably different to that of other faiths adding: “You need to remember that Christians have been on very good terms with Muslims there.
“They have been living together for years.”
However, Church leaders in the region have expressed fears that, were Assad to fall from power, Christians would be among the worst to suffer, with Islamist groups filling the power vacuum.
The archbishop called on Christians and others to pray for peace.
He said: “We should pray that those in positions of power do what they can to alleviate the suffering of the people.
“The problem now is the suffering of the people and we should be praying that a new democracy is born and that human rights are respected.”
The Middle East is a priority region for Aid to the Church in Need which was asked by Pope Benedict to help in a part of the world where “the local Church is threatened in its very existence”.

Editor’s Notes

Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.

While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.

For more information, contact John Pontifex, ACN UK Head of Press and Information 020 8661 5161 or John Newton, ACN Press Officer, 020 8661 5167.