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Churches body calls for an end to violence in Syria as Turkish operation gains pace

The World Council of Churches has condemned the violence in Syria after the Turkish military launched an operation in the country’s north-east this week.

Tens of thousands of people have reportedly fled their homes amid fears of a humanitarian disaster and renewed attacks by terror group, the so-called Islamic State, in the area of conflict.

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Members of Syrian National Army, known as Free Syrian Army, stand on top of an armored vehicle in the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, on 11th October. PICTURE: Reuters/Murad Sezer

In a statement, Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, said the Syrian people have already been subjected to “too much conflict, and far too much bloodshed, destruction and displacement”.

“The churches of the world demand an end to it – an end to the suffering of the people. Enough fighting, chaos and death. It is time for peace, for respite, for dialogue, and for justice for the victims of atrocities perpetrated through these catastrophic years of violence,” he said.

The WCC said many of those living in the affected area – which includes Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, Arabs and other vulnerable groups that “suffered grievously during the years of war” – have already been displaced multiple times as they fled the fight in other parts of Syria.

Meanwhile, some US evangelical Christians – among them some key supporters of US President Donald Trump – have expressed their alarm at his decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria, an event which took place in the days prior to the Turkish assault.

Among them is Franklin Graham who, while attending a conference on Friday, asked people to pray for Trump to reconsider his position, saying that “thousands of lives hang in the balance”.

Earlier, Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, had said Trump was “in great danger of losing the mandate of Heaven” as a result of the decision.

Among other Christian groups speaking up is Middle East Concern which said that Christian leaders in the affected region were worried that “elements within Turkey’s forces and their Syrian opposition allies are pursuing Islamist agendas that are hostile not just to Kurds but also to any communities that are not Sunni Muslim”.

“This fear would be compounded if the security of prisons holding extremists is compromised,” the group said in a statement. “They also fear that Turkey’s refugee repatriation plans, whereby Syrians who fled from other areas would be resettled in northeast Syria, constitute an intentional programme of ‘demographic engineering’ in the region, intended to boost the Arab Sunni presence to the detriment of Kurds and other communities such as Christians.”



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