02/13/2012, 00.00
SYRIA
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Without dialogue Syria will become a new Iraq, Aleppo bishop says

Mgr Antoine Audo speaks about the recent attacks that left 28 people dead in his city, including two Christians. The prelate notes the spirit of solidarity between Christians and Muslims, united despite a climate of hatred and violence. He calls on the international community to favour dialogue among the various factions rather than a spirit of vengeance. The Arab League calls for the deployment of United Nations troops to stop fighting between Syrian forces and rebels. Pope made an appeal on Sunday.
Aleppo (AsiaNews) – “The international community must favour dialogue among the various groups rather than fuel the spirit of vengeance. Backing one faction against the other will turn Syria into a new Iraq. Otherwise, Christians will pay a heavy price,” said Mgr Antoine Audo, Chaldean bishop of Aleppo after last Saturday’s attack against two Syrian security forces bases that killed 28. Mgr Audo spoke to AsiaNews a day after Benedict XVI issued an appeal to the Syrian government, opposition forces and the international community.

As Syria’s main commercial centre, Aleppo is a symbol of unity and dialogue between Christians, Shias and Sunnis. For a long time, the city was spared from the fighting that raged across the country between rebel troops and government forces since February 2011.

However, tensions have risen in the last few weeks. After a car bomb attack, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Assad’s regime blamed each other for the attack. In Homs and in other rebel-held towns, shelling has resumed In recent days.

Yesterday in Cairo, the 21 representatives of the member states of the Arab League (the 22nd, Syria, is suspended) called for the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers and Arab troops to Syria.

Mgr Audo noted that despite the climate of violence and vengeance of the past few months, residents have remained united, not only in Aleppo but also in other cities.

“Two Christians were killed in the attack,” the prelate explained. “They had gone to the mosque near the blast site to express their solidarity with Muslims. Yesterday, hundreds of people from both communities took part in their funeral.”

According to the bishop, all Syrians irrespective of confessions are suffering from the violence and the deep economic crisis that has crippled the country.

Sanctions and the climate of fear have interrupted almost all economic activities, including the sale of food and drugs. Poor families are the ones that suffer the most from the situation.

“The Catholic Church,” he said, “is helping the exhausted population of Aleppo, Damascus and Homs. I am, as president of Caritas Syria, personally working with other local humanitarian groups to provide food and health treatment to families.”

Yesterday, Benedict XVI issued a new "urgent appeal" to "end the violence and bloodshed" in Syria, along with an invitation to "give priority to the path of dialogue, reconciliation and commitment to peace.” The pope made the plea to everyone, but “above all the political authorities in Syria."
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