ROME (CNS) — Representatives of a dozen Syrian opposition groups called for a cease-fire in their homeland and the beginning of an internationally mediated dialogue to bring democracy to the country.
Meeting in Rome July 25-26, the groups, which included some inspired by Islam, said they are “firmly opposed to any discrimination based on religious confession or ethnicity.”
The 14 men and three women involved in Syria’s pro-democracy movements met under the auspices of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Rome-based Catholic lay group that promotes dialogue and charity.
“While violence is prevailing and on a rampage in our country,” the political opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad felt “it was important to sit together and think about a political solution,” said Faiez Sara, a writer and member of the Democratic Forum, who had been imprisoned for his political activities in Syria.
He said it was time to stop “the killings perpetrated by the regime or committed by the victims of the regime who have taken up weapons.”
Abdul Aziz Alkhayer, a member of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change who was released in 2006 after 14 years in prison, said, “We have paid a huge price for fighting the dictatorship, have spent years in jail for this.”
But, he said, “weapons just kill people, destroy things. They cannot build anything.”
The opposition leaders signed their “Rome Appeal,” calling for a negotiated end to Assad’s rule and the beginning of a transition to “a Syria that is democratic, civil and safe for all, without fear and without oppression.”
In addition to insisting on the retreat of government forces, they asked “our fellow citizens in the (opposition) Free Syrian Army and all those bearing arms, to participate in a political process to establish a peaceful, secure and democratic Syria.”
Also July 26, the Catholic bishops of Syria held an abbreviated summer meeting in Aleppo, which had been the scene of fierce fighting.
“In Aleppo, the situation is very tense, but right now there are not problems for the Christians. There are fears that the situation could worsen and that the militants could penetrate the Christian quarters, but that has not happened,” Melkite Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo told Fides, the Vatican’s missionary news agency.
“If the West wants to help the Syrian people,” he said, “support and pressure for dialogue.”
He said the bishops decided to invite representatives of all the Christian communities in the country to gather July 28. “We will pray together for peace in Syria and discuss urgent questions such as protecting Christians and providing humanitarian aid to all who suffer.”
Syrian Christians, he said, are afraid of “losing what we have obtained over the past 70 years: a non-confessional culture, a pluralism that is a very precious (and) good. We want to live in our country with full rights and obligations. We are afraid that if a fundamentalist or Islamic theocratic government is installed, we will lose the freedom to witness our faith, religious liberty and the freedom of expression, which are indispensable for citizens of a country that guarantees the rights of all.”
Help us keep you informed -- CatholicPhilly.com can't do it without youDuring CatholicPhilly.com's fall donation campaign, you have a way to help us deliver the kind of news you need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live. Every household's costs keep rising, and we're no different. We make sure your dollars in any amount go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month. Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can -- a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Or by credit card here: