A Syrian priest has slammed the Church for its lack of action in the Syrian civil war. Now in its eighth year, the war has claimed the lives of around half a million Syrians, with some 6.1 million being forced to leave their homes as a result of the violence. In just the last few days, some 50,000 people are thought to have fled the regions of Ghouta and Afrin, as government forces attempt to retake rebel-held areas.
I challenge the leadership of the Church east and west… where are we?
In some fierce remarks on the lack of strategic insight shown by coalition forces, Syrian priest Fr Nadim Nassar argued that the international community has actually contributed to the complexity of his country’s deep-rooted issues.
“They shouldn’t have engaged in the war from the beginning,” he told Premier UK. “I’m not saying in any way the international community should step back and leave Syria after such enormous involvement and engagement in the war of Syria. After the destruction, how can they step back?”
Save #Syria by removing all foreign fighters & armies from the entire country. They have no right & no business to be their and kill the innocent #Syrians
Only by doing this we help the #Syrians to find solutions to their problems which are fueled right now by foreign powers
— Fr. Nadim Nassar (@Nadim_Nassar) March 3, 2018
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has, on several occasions, been accused of using chemical weapons against his own people. Despite numerous calls for him to step down, Assad has adamantly denied bombing his own population. That is unsurprising. An offense of that magnitude could invoke a full-scale international military response under the United Nation’s Responsibility to Protect mandate, the UN Charter, and as agreed by a UN security council majority. He will recall the bloody fate of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, dragged out of an underground guttering system after his escape convoy was incinerated by NATO-sanctioned French fighter jets. He certainly doesn’t want that.
“I know about the army, they use bullets, missiles, and bombs. I haven’t heard of the army using barrels, or maybe, cooking pots,” Assad told the BBC in a 2015 interview. When pushed on the use of “barrel bombs,” which can be armed with chemical agents, Assad replied “They’re called bombs. We have bombs, missiles and bullets… There is [are] no barrel bombs, we don’t have barrels.” He insisted that his army is only targeting terrorists and those who seek to overthrow his government.
The US began providing military assistance to the Syrian rebels fighting President Assad back in 2o14, as well as teaming up with Kurdish fighters in a joint resistance against ISIS. The situation is made even more complex by the presence of Russian forces who are backing Assad and engaging in bombing campaigns on rebel positions. Human rights organization Amnesty International has accused the Russians of deliberately bombing civilians and that the country was “guilty of some the most egregious war crimes in decades,” as reported by the Independent.
Human Rights Watch has accused Russia of using cluster munitions in areas where civilians are living. These devastating explosives contain thousands of additional “bomblets,” causing widespread and indiscriminate killing. As a result, HRW argued that Russia had violated United Nations resolution 2139 of 22 which demanded that all parties end “indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas.”
Though Nassar has been openly critical of the international community’s military intervention in Syria, he is also extremely disappointed in the Church for failing to stand up for those caught in the war zone.
“Unfortunately, I’m heartbroken to say… the international community is not on the right way to tackle the problem in Syria. People don’t want to talk about it any longer because they look and they see such a huge disaster – even the Church,” the priest said.
“The Church is only helping in a humanitarian way but it’s not enough. I challenge the leadership of the Church east and west… where are we? Where are the leaders of the Church to stand up and shout and scream in the faces of the politicians and say ‘enough, stop the blood and stop this senseless war.'”
“Unfortunately the position of the Church is appalling and it is shameful.”