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III. Statement on crisis in Syria

Statement on the crisis in Syria adopted as part of the Report of the Public Issues Committee by the World Council of Churches Central Committee.

04 September 2012

WCC Central Committee meeting, 28 August - 5 September 2012

1.      Ever since the people in Syria started their claim for reforms in the country in March 2011, the World Council of Churches has been closely following the developments in the country. The WCC affirms the principle that governments and civil society have a duty to protect the lives and dignity of all citizens. This basic obligation is clearly stipulated under international human right law according to the Geneva Conventions, which stipulates that even during conflicts, indiscriminate attacks on civilians by any party are not acceptable, and that combatants and non-combatants must be strictly distinguished. The crisis in Syria and the ongoing violence violates or negates these basic principles and obligations related to human rights and human dignity.

2.      A message from the WCC executive committee addressed to the heads of churches in Syria, in February, 2012, affirmed the message by three heads of churches in Syria His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV, His Holiness Patriarch Zakka I, and His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III (issued on 15 December 2011) – in which they refused “the use of any type of violence” and called for the “respect of the principles of justice, freedom, human dignity, social justice and citizenship rights”.

3.      Christians in Syria, as well as in the whole Middle East region, are indigenous, very much rooted to their traditions, and their continuous presence and witness have borne both challenge and responsibility throughout the country’s history. While underscoring this reality the executive committee of WCC expressed confidence that “the churches in Syria, which are deeply rooted in the land, and have developed a long historic experience of engagement in the life of the society will have an important role in national dialogue especially in this critical and difficult moment”.

4.      In a minute on “The Presence and Witness of Christians in the Middle East”, the Central Committee of WCC, in its meeting in February 2011, expressed the Council’s principles that guide its policy concerning the Middle East region: “God’s justice and love for all of creation, the fundamental rights of all people, respect for human dignity, solidarity with the needy, and dialogue with people of other faiths”. The minute also noted that “political developments in the region point to signs of hope for democratic changes, respect for human rights and the rule of law in several countries”. In this context we reaffirm the principle expressed by the Central Committee in 2011 that “peace and reconciliation must be conditioned by justice”.

The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Kolympari, Crete, Greece, from 28 August to 5 September 2012, therefore:

A.     Calls for an end to the violence in all forms.

B.     Urges all parties to honour and respect their commitments and obligations in regard to the right of all Syrian people to live in dignity and to fulfil their aspirations for peace and solidarity for their life together

C.     Calls for all parties to engage in dialogue  – as the only solution – in order to safeguard the unity and pluralistic nature of historic Syria for a better future for generations to come, and in order to promote respect for the principles of justice, freedom, human dignity, social justice and citizenship rights.

D.    Appeals to the international community to respect the ability and responsibility of the Syrian people to find solutions to the crisis, and to refrain from outside military interventions;

E.     Encourages the UN peace plan initiative, and support the efforts of the UN envoy, Al Akhdar – Al Ibrahimi, hoping that peace will prevail.

F.     Affirms that the Christian presence in the Middle East is part of the social and cultural constituency of the society they live in and have a historical role to play in building up a future society based on the mutual respect and dialogue of life.

G.    Encourages the WCC member churches and related ministries in the Ecumenical family to respond to the needs that many Syrians are experiencing in their challenge to provide for many of the basic necessities of life in this time of crisis, including refugees and internally displaced persons

H.   Prays for the reign of peace with justice in Syria and in all countries in the Middle East, so that peoples of different faiths live together in harmony and love, and manifest God’s love for all of creation; “God of Life: Lead us to Justice and Peace”.

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