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Irish Nobel laureate hopeful of Vatican statement on Syria

By Sarah Mac Donald - 25 July, 2013

Mairead Corrigan Maguire discusses conflict with Vatican officials.

Nobel Peace Laureate, Mairéad Corrigan Maguire

Nobel Peace Laureate, Mairéad Corrigan Maguire

Irish Nobel Peace laureate, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, has said she is hopeful that a strong message of peace will come from the Holy See in support of troubled Syria.

Discussing the Syrian crisis, she underlined that non-violence, dialogue, reconciliation and peace are the keys to solving the conflict.

They are “the only possible way to avoid a regional degeneration of the conflict, with unpredictable outcomes,” she warned and added that they are “values that the Catholic Church strongly promotes, according to the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.”

She made her comments to the Fides News agency after her meeting in the Vatican this week with the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, and the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson.

Maguire was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1976 for her commitment to solving the conflict by peaceful means in Northern Ireland.

Of her meeting with the two senior Vatican prelates, she said it was agreed that “the Catholic Church must promote a strong message of peace for Syria.”

“A very clear message of non-violence and reconciliation are urgently needed as roads to peace. They are the paths that Jesus chose,” explained Maguire, who is coordinator of the Belfast-based NGO ‘Peace People’.

Speaking to Fides about the Syrian situation, she described it as “very complicated due to new outbreaks, violence and weapons.” Maguire warned that the figures for victims were “frightening” and comparable only to the Rwandan genocide.

After two years of conflict, she suggested that it was necessary to bring about an end to the violence and to support those who seek to bring people together, to propose a dialogue, starting with a cease-fire and an end to indiscriminate violence.

“A political solution should be strongly reconsidered,” she urged.

Maguire made a trip to Syria last May as head of a peace delegation, where they visited refugees in the troubled country as well as in camps in Lebanon.

“We participated in interfaith prayer meetings. We met ordinary people, members of the government and the opposition. Most of the groups, civil and religious, call for dialogue and for a push for peace. The population is tired of death, violence and destruction.”

“Peace and reconciliation are the supreme good and many people in Syria have chosen this path. There are many initiatives from grassroots like that of the ‘Mussalaha’ movement, supported by Patriarch Gregory III Laham.”

She also called for technical and material support to promote a de-escalation of the conflict. “You have to talk to everyone and restart a national dialogue between the government and opposition, tracing a transition, while respecting the principle of self-determination, asking the Syrian people what they want.”

For Maguire, the peace accords in Northern Ireland may be a model for bringing about an end to the conflict in Syria.

“We started to promote friendship, forgiveness and reconciliation from the bottom, and then bring them to a political and institutional level. This can also happen for Syria, but the weapons must be silent.”

She concluded by calling on the international community to support those who promote inclusive dialogue in the country wracked by civil war since March 2011.

The UN estimates that as many as 90,000 to 100,000 people have died in the conflict as of the end of June 2013.

By Sarah Mac Donald  

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