[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Church in Wales has joined five other UK Christian churches in calling for an end to the fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo. They have called for those responsible for “the targeting and killing of civilians” to be held to account for war crimes. They say that the targeting of civilians “can never be passed off merely as a consequence of war” and say that “aerial strikes on homes, hospitals and aid convoys are never acceptable, under any circumstances.”
The chair of the Church in Wales’ international group, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies, signed the joint statement alongside the general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Revd Lynn Green; the President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Dr Roger Walton; the general secretary of the United Reformed Church, the Revd John Proctor; Moderator of the [Presbyterian] Church of Scotland, the Right Revd Dr Russell Bar; and the recording clerk for Quakers in Britain, Paul Parker.
The joint statement comes as the UN’s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, reports that 376 people – one third of whom were children – have been killed in the two weeks since the collapse of the latest ceasefire. A further 1,266 were wounded. The international aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières says that there have been 23 recorded attacks on Aleppo’s eight hospitals since the end of July.
In their statement, the church leaders say that they are “appalled by the attacks on civilians by the Syrian Government, Russian and other forces” in Aleppo.
“The responsibility for such attacks lies first and foremost with those who have carried them out. But the frequency of such attacks in Syria also underlines a failure on the part of the international community to uphold long-established principles concerning the immunity of civilians in conflict,” they said. “Member states of the United Nations should seek to hold to account the parties responsible for indiscriminate attacks on men, women, children, hospitals, humanitarian and rescue workers, which could be construed as war crimes.
“The world cries out for an end to the death and destruction in Syria that daily adds to the largest flight of refugees since the Second World War. We join with our brothers and sisters of other churches and other faiths in praying for the people of Syria. We claim no simple solution to a complex political reality but offer the simple message of our faith: that every life is valued by God and that the slaughter must end now.”
Earlier this month the UN Security Council debated two resolutions on Syria.
A draft text produced by the French and Spanish governments demanded an immediate halt to all aerial bombardments and military flights over the city of Aleppo. After “a heated debate” in which there were repeated urgent calls for humanitarian intervention for the besieged city of Aleppo, the text received 11 affirmative votes, two abstentions and two negative votes. Russia, one of those who voted against, is a permanent member of the security council and its vote effectively vetoed the resolution.
A separate text from the Russian government would have urged an immediate cessation of hostilities, particularly in Aleppo. It received only four votes in favour.
This afternoon (Thursday) a unilateral “humanitarian pause” in the fighting was extended by Russia. The brief pause in attacks will allow people in the city to leave via eight “exit corridors”. Two of them are open to rebel fighters who are prepared to surrender their weapons. The pause is due to come to an end at 7 pm EEST (4 pm GMT) tomorrow (Friday).