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Govt urged to send diplomatic mission to Syria

By Sarah Mac Donald - 30 November, 2014

President of Caritas Syria, Bishop Antoine Audo SJ, describes conditions in Aleppo, ravaged by four years of conflict.

Bishop Antoine Audo SJThe Government has been urged to consider sending an ambassador to the Syrian capital Damascus by the president of Caritas in the war-torn Middle East country.

In Dublin for meetings with Trócaire and Irish Aid who are providing humanitarian support those affected by the violence, Bishop Antoine Audo, who is also head of the Chaldean Catholic church in the Syrian city of Aleppo, said sending diplomatic representation would be a huge gesture of solidarity with his ravaged country.

Speaking ahead of his meeting with the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs committee, Bishop Audo told CatholicIreland.net that he was appealing to the Government: “Help us out of this war and help us re-find again the beauty of co-existence.”

He added, “Everybody is losing in this war but everybody will win with peace and reconciliation.”

The Syrian Bishop, who trained as a Jesuit, said sending an ambassador from Ireland would be an important sign of confidence in Syria’s potential to return to normality as well as an indication that Syria was not excluded by the international community.

He suggested that Ireland could influence its EU partners to also return their ambassadors to the Syrian capital.

In an interview with Catholic News Service (CNS), Bishop Audo appealed to Pope Francis to use his time in Turkey to raise the ongoing supply of arms across the Turkish border to rebel factions in the north of Syria with the Turkish authorities.

“Help us realise peace in Syria. There has been no military solution in four years” he appealed. Almost 200,000 people are estimated to have died in the conflict so far.

The Bishop, like many in Syria, believes the West, Russia and China need to stop selling arms to the various factions fanning the flames of conflict.

“We have to do our best to promote peace and reconciliation and use dialogue to build anew; if it does not happen then one day the fight will arrive in the countries of the West too,” he warned.

Speaking about the circumstances in the northern city where he is bishop, the 68-year-old said the pre-conflict population of 150,000 Christians had been halved by death and exodus.

The remaining population in the once thriving city are now contending with no electricity, no water and no work.

“Even the middle class is poor in Aleppo. Doctors and engineers come to me to ask for a basket of food,” Bishop Audo explained.

“Death has become something normal inside Syria – there is no value on human life,” Bishop Audo explained. The city has witnessed over 3,000 deaths since January.

Asked about the threat of ISIS, the Caritas Syria president said their aim was to spread violence and fear and terrify people but he also claimed, “They don’t have any future as an Islamic state”.

He warned that failure to promote peace and reconciliation could result in the conflict ending on the doorstep of the countries of the West.

Aleppo was once a thriving metropolis and one of the most religiously diverse centers in the region.

However, extensive bombing and brutal street to street fighting between the various rebels groups and government forces of the Assad regime have left it a shell of its former self.

“With the war we have lost everything. Death has become something normal – there is no value on human life,” Bishop Audo explained. The city has witnessed over 3,000 deaths since January this year.

Read the full interview with CNS here: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1404958.htm

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