01/25/2021, 12.34
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Christians and Muslims write open letter to Biden calling for an end of the sanctions against Syria

The letter is also addressed to Macron, Johnson and Merkel. The signatories include clerics, civil society leaders, and doctors. The Syrian people “demand quick answers” to an exceptional crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated difficulties. The country is at risk of “famine” and people go to sleep “hungry”.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – Some Christian leaders and bishops, European intellectuals, activists, health workers, and prominent Muslims are among the 95 people who signed an open letter to the new US president Joe Biden, asking him to lift sanctions against Syria.

The letter dated 21 January is addressed to US President Joe Biden, as well as to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It stresses the serious damage the restrictive measures have had on a people who “demand quick answers”. These measures, the signatories say, have contributed to “hunger and poverty of citizens”.

The promoters of the initiative, who include both Muslims and Christians, lay and religious, diplomats, politicians and retired soldiers, want US and Western leaders to “help the Syrians alleviate the humanitarian crisis”, which is causing “deep suffering” to civilians and could trigger “a new wave of instability in the Middle East”.

Alena Douhan, UN Special Rapporteur for Syria, has also called for the easing of sanctions. In her view, these measures “violate the human rights of the Syrian people” and “exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation, especially in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Recently, the Caesar Act adopted by the US Congress has compounded existing punitive measures, which Catholic Church leaders in Syria have criticised, including the apostolic vicar of Aleppo and the Maronite archbishop of Damascus.

This measure, imposed by the US, combined with inflation, has increasingly impoverished the population. In this context, Pope Francis’s solidarity, with his repeated appeals for peace, and the call to use “the weapon of charity” made by the apostolic nuncio to Damascus to heal “physical, economic and social” wounds are even more valuable.

At the international level, the signatories of the open letter to Biden say that “this form of collective punishment of the civilian population is leading Syria towards an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe”.

Until 10 years ago, the Arab country “was a grain warehouse” for the whole region, but today according to the World Food Program (WFP), it is experiencing “not only hunger, but famine as well”.

In such a critical situation, the novel coronavirus pandemic “is spreading across the country in an uncontrolled way” due also to the “collapse” of the health system “destroyed by a decade of war”.

Every night, the letter explains, “millions of Syrians go to sleep in hungry and cold”, while unilateral sanctions “make the economic ordeal even worse”.

The letter ends saying: “We urge you, Mr President to help the Syrians alleviate the humanitarian crisis that threatens to cause a new wave of instability in the Middle East, by supporting the work of the UN special rapporteur. We believe that the national interests of the United States can be defended without collectively punishing the Syrian people with economic sanctions.”

The signatories include:

Michael Abs, general secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches

His Beatitude Joseph Absi, primate of the Greek-Melkite Church

Abdelmadjid Ait Saadi, Algerian Muslim intellectual and activist

Baron (David) Alton of Liverpool, Member of the British House of Lords

Nabil Antaki, physician and representative of the Aleppo Blue Marists

His Beatitude Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch

Adel Ben Yousseff, professor at the University of Nice-Sophia-Antipolis

Benjamin Blanchard, general manager of SOS Chrétiens d’Orient

José Bustani, former director of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Maher Daoud, president of the Franco-Syrian medical association

General Grégoire Diamantidis, former head of the French Air Force

Rev Ibrahim Nseir, of the Presbyterian Church of Aleppo

Rev Haroutune Selimian, president of the Evangelical-Armenian Church of Syria

His Beatitude Ignatius Youssef III Younan, Syro-Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and all the East

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