17th February, 2012
with STEFAN J. BOS, BosNewsLife.com
The United Nations' General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new resolution condemning "continued and widespread" human rights by the Syrian Government and calling for President Bashir al-Assad to step down.
The non-binding resolution - which was introduced by Egypt on behalf of 27 other countries including Arab nations, Britain and the US - received 137 votes in support and 12 against - including China, Russia and Iran. Seventeen nations abstained. The passing of the resolution follows the failure of a similar resolution which was vetoed by Russia and China when brought before the UN Security Council earlier this month.
WORLDWIDE PROTESTS: A group of Syrian protestors drawing attention to the civil unrest in their country in Trafalgar Square, London, in October last year - one of numerous protests around the world aimed calling for a halt to the violence which broke out in the Middle Eastern nation after the popular uprising began in March last year. PICTURE: © Chris Schmidt (www.istockphoto.com)
"The Secretary-General joins the General Assembly in calling on the Syrian Government to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against its citizens, and to fully comply with its obligations under international law."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking after the UN resolution was passed.
Welcoming the resolution, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was critical for the world "to speak with one voice to put an end to the bloodshed and to exert maximum efforts to resolve this crisis peacefully".
"The Secretary-General joins the General Assembly in calling on the Syrian Government to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against its citizens, and to fully comply with its obligations under international law," he said.
"The Syrian authorities must allow immediate, full and unhindered humanitarian access to those in need. The Secretary-General calls on all sides in Syria, including armed groups, to immediately stop all acts of violence."
The Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, reportedly rejected the resolution and told the assembly it was part of a plot to overthrow the government.
According to the UN, more than 5,400 people have now been killed in Syria since an uprising began last March while thousands more remain missing. An estimated 75,000 people have been internally displaced and as many as 25,000 have fled the Middle Eastern nation to avoid the violence.
BosNewsLife reports that the death toll has included hundreds of Syrian Christians, according to an aid group working in the region, and says several Christians have also been kidnapped as fighting rages between government forces and rebels.
"The key battleground of Homs is encircled by fighters from both sides, leaving the Christians there and in the surrounding villages - approximately 100,000 - in the firing line, many of them trapped in the city," said Barnabas Fund, which supports local believers there.
The Britain-based group said at least over 200 Syrian Christians died in recent clashes and added that the community "has been beset by a series" of kidnappings blamed mainly on rebels calling themselves the Free Syrian Army.
"The rebels make high ransom demands for the return of the captives, but in two known cases the victims’ bodies were found after the money had been paid," Barnabas Fund claimed, without providing more details.
"Some families are now becoming so desperate that they tell the kidnappers to kill their loved one immediately rather than subjecting them to torture."
There was no known response to the allegations of the Free Syrian Army, which military experts claim still lacks a clear command structure and suffers under little, or no, training and poor equipment.
However the reported incidents came after church leaders said they fear "a mass genocide of Christians" if Islamists takeover in Syria, where Sunnis Muslims make up 74 per cent of the country's 22 million population.
Analysts say thousands of Christians, perhaps in many cases reluctantly, are tied up in the regime's security apparatus and are employed in high-ranking government and military positions.
Aware that masses might rise up against the regime, Syria's previous president, Hafez al-Assad, sought to consolidate power among the minorities, including Christians.
And, under the secular regime of current President Bashar al-Assad, "Christians had relative freedom to worship" although "Christian meetings were monitored by the secret police and evangelism was discouraged," said Open Doors, a group supporting "persecuted" Christians.
There are two million Christians in Syria, around ten per cent of the population, according to several estimates, Among them are thousands of Iraqi Christian refugees who have been forced from their homeland by anti-Christian violence and persecution, and are already in desperate need, Barnabas Fund said.
"Our brothers and sisters in Syria are in a desperate state, facing the daily struggle of trying to get enough food to feed their families while war rages all around them,"
Barnabas Fund's International Director Patrick Sookhdeo.
While Christians have expressed concerns over reported brutality under the the current president, they are even more worried about their future, according to Christian rights activists.
"Our brothers and sisters in Syria are in a desperate state, facing the daily struggle of trying to get enough food to feed their families while war rages all around them," stressed Barnabas Fund's International Director Patrick Sookhdeo in remarks to BosNewsLife.
"They are also understandably anxious about how this conflict is going to end and what that will mean for their future in the country."
Christian aid workers said orphans and whole families are being evacuated, and are in desperate need" of food and basics. "Christians in Syria are hungry and helpless amid the brutal fighting between government troops and rebels," Barnabas Fund said.
Prices have sky rocketed, supplies are running low, and it is often too dangerous to go out in search of food, according to Barnabas Dund and Open Doors investigators. Even in some parts of the country not directly affected by violence, there is inflation of up to 50 per cent, while in Homs itself some prices have reportedly tripled, Christians said.
Barnabas Fund said it has launched a fund to support local Christians and urged Christians to pray "for peace and stability to be restored in Syria" and "For all those who have lost loved ones in the violence, that they will be comforted in their grief."
Aid workers said that for Syria's Christian community prayers have been urged "that the Lord will be their rock, fortress and deliverer" and that He will meet all their needs", a reference to Bible verse Psalm 18:2.