The Governing Body, or synod, of the Church in Wales has called for “concerted diplomatic action rather than an escalation of violence” following the suspected chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma. It has been reported that 70 people were killed and more than 500 injured after a toxic gas containing chlorine and sarin was released on 7 April in the town near Damascus. Western governments have blamed the Russia-backed regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; but Russia has claimed it was a “false flag” incident carried out by Western-backed Syrian rebels. Russia has used its UN veto to block calls for an independent investigation.
In the days that following, several Western governments, including the US, the UK and France, have threatened military retaliation for the attack. In the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May convened a War Cabinet to discuss the crisis; while in the US, President Donald Trump warned Russia in a Tweet to prepare for missiles. “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria,” he said. “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
This week, during their scheduled biannual meeting at Venue Cymru in the North Wales coastal town of Llandudno, the Church in Wales Governing Body debated an emergency motion on Syria. In it, they noted “with alarm the return to the international agenda of the possibility of heavy bombardment and violent intervention in the situation in Syria.”
They said: “while condemning the use of chemical weapons” and “mindful of the complexities of the situation which rule out simplistic answers”; they called upon the British government to “prioritise concerted diplomatic action to secure more peaceful and consensual international responses rather than an escalation of violence.”
The motion was moved by the Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron. He said afterwards: “I am delighted that Governing Body is able to add its voice to this important issue to call for peace and justice in the Middle East. The situation is deeply complex but a rush to flex military muscles is not, in my opinion, a wise reaction. We are asking all Christians and people of faith to hold Syria in their prayers at this tense time.”