Prayers and calls for peace in Syria, Iraq

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Staffan de Mistura speaks at a press conference in Geneva January 15. – AP
(Vatican Radio) The ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq and the suffering of persecuted Christians there was the focus of a prayer effort in Rome on Thursday. The vigil took place as the United Nations issued a call for a solutions to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect for the Congregation for Oriental Churches, led the vigil. In his homily, the cardinal prayed “for the conversion of those who do evil, that their hardened hearts open to a new way of seeing, a new experience of humanity, to an authentic religiosity that does not kill or persecute, but which promotes the good of the other, even if they are different.”

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In the meantime, diplomatic and humanitarian efforts in the Middle East continue.

The UN Envoy to Syria said a solution to the Syrian conflict must not be put on the “backburner” in the face of a slew of other world events. At a press conference in Geneva, Staffan de Mistura said the recent terrorist attacks in Paris had “a connection with the origins and consequences of the Syrian conflict”.

He also said the presence of jihadist fighters in Syria, only 20 kilometres from Aleppo, was a new factor in the conflict that could accelerate future peace talks, scheduled for January 27 in Moscow.

De Mistura said he welcomes any effort to secure peace in Syria, where some 220,000 people have been killed and 7.6 million have been displaced in the four-year Syrian conflict.

As well, the United Nations reports relief assistance is getting to 1,200 families in the Iraqi town of Dhuluiya, which had been besieged by the Islamic State terrorists but was recaptured by the Iraq military in December.

The relief items, including blankets, jerry cans, hygiene kits and medical supplies, come at a welcome time, as the cold of winter has set in in the region.,_iraq/1118543