30th May, 2012
The World Council of Churches has joined with the United Nations and countries around the world in condemning the ongoing violence in Syria which hit a new low when 108 people were massacred near the town of Houla on the weekend.
Reports had initially put the death toll from the attack on 25th and 26th May at around 80 but this was revised to 108, including more than 30 children. Many of the dead, who also included women, had apparently been shot at close range. Hundreds were also wounded in the attack and UN observers have verified that artillery and tank shells were fired in the area.
"What happened in the area of Houla two days ago during a protest is morally and ethically unacceptable, as is the case with previous violence in Homs and other areas. Those who are responsible for this massacre and other atrocities should be brought to justice."
- Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary, World Council of Churches
Rev Dr Olav Fyske Tveit, general secretary of the council, said churches "cannot but condemn this inhumane act and manifest our feelings of solidarity with the families of the victims, mourning their beloved ones".
Rev Dr Tveit said what happened in the area of Houla last weekend "during a protest is morally and ethically unacceptable, as is the case with previous violence in Homs and other areas".
"Those who are responsible for this massacre and other atrocities should be brought to justice. The WCC urges the international community to fully support the UN efforts to bring peace and to put an end to the cycle of violence."
Earlier in the week, the United Nations Security Council issued a statement condemning the killings "in the strongest possible terms" and demanded the Syrian Government immediately cease the use of heavy weapons in population centres and immediately pull back its troops and its heavy weapons from in and around population centres and return them to their barracks.
On Tuesday, Kofi Annan, Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian Crisis, said he had spoken frankly to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad about the "grave concern" of the international community about the ongoing violence in Syria, in particular the events of last weekend. The Syrian Government has reportedly started its own investigation into the incident at Houla to find those responsible.
Australia, meanwhile, was first among a number of countries including the UK, France, Canada and the US to order the expulsion of Syrian diplomats in protest at the killings, yesterday delivering a 72 hour ultimatum for Syria's two top diplomats to leave the country.
According to UN estimates, more than 9000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced from their homes since the uprising against President Assad began 14 months ago.
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