03/18/2016, 19.42
SYRIA – UNITED STATES
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Responding to Kerry, Patriarch Laham says war is taking place in Syria, not genocide

Gregory III criticises the US Secretary’s claim because it is "no good" for Syria’s ethnic and religious groups. For the bishop, it is necessary not to link religion and war; otherwise, matter will be worse. What is needed is more work on peace and coexistence. Syrian bishops call on the faithful to pray for the success of the Geneva talks. 

Damascus (AsiaNews) – US Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks about the Islamic State’s "genocide" against Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims "are not helpful to the ethnic and religious groups present in Syria,” said Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the prelate does not mince his words about America’s top diplomat. "The words come late, and bring bitterness and ill will between the various groups. This is no good.”

Responding to appeals by Christian and other activist groups and organisations, in the United States and elsewhere, the US Secretary of State used the word ‘genocide’ for the first time to describe the violence carried out by Daesh (Arabic acronym for the Islamic State] in Iraq and Syria. In his view, the latter is "genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions".

Gregory III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, has always been critical of the intervention by the Western (and regional) powers, first in Iraq and then in the Syria, which have exacerbated the conflict.

"We must avoid labelling religion as a cause of war,” he said. “Military interventions as well as economic and political interests are the cause of wars, whilst religions are exploited as a tool and a pretext."

For the Melkite patriarch, Kerry’s stance "will not favour Christians"; on the contrary, it helps making matters worse, generating "animosity between groups, Sunnis vs Shias, Christians vs Muslims".

Russia’s intervention has shown the ineffectiveness of US action. Perhaps for this reason, Washington is trying to regain some credibility and ground with these words in Christian eyes. However, for Gregory III, “it is a wrong approach because now is a time to work for peace and coexistence, not generate even more divisions."

The problem is that "the great powers like the United States have lost their credibility.” At present, “there is more mistrust among peoples”.

For this reason, Syrians bishops have called on the faithful to "pray for the ongoing talks in Geneva” that they may "yield results and be harbingers of peace."

For the patriarch, "emigration is the biggest danger”. He warns though not “to overstate the numbers and statistics. We do not know how many are abroad, how many are internal migrants, how many leave and then come back.”

Lastly, “As a Syrian Church, we have many projects and are grateful to those who are helping us to revive life in the country and give a future to its people. As the pope put it, we should never let the flame of hope go out."

Conflict in Syria began in March 2011 with a popular protest against President Bashar al-Assad, eventually morphing into a regional and international conflict involving extremist and jihadi groups.

The war has claimed so far the lives of 270,000 people, generating one of the most serious humanitarian crises in history, with 4.6 million Syrians forced outside the country in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Hundreds of thousands more have tried to reach Europe, with countless lives lost in the attempt to cross the Mediterranean.

Altogether, some 11 million people have bene displaced.

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