Patriarch Twal Argues Against Armed Intervention in Syria | August 31, 2013

(Milan/e.p.) – Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, has strongly criticized the proposed policy of the U.S. government and its allies to launch air strikes against Syria.

In a statement, released August 28th, the archbishop questions the authority of these states to launch an attack, wonders who appointed them to be “policemen of democracy”, and warns of the risk of more civilian casualties.

He makes four clear points, each an attempt to appeal to reason.

He begins by questioning why the push for military action when UN experts have yet to formally identify the nature of the attack and culpability, and warns world leaders not to repeat the “comedy” of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, when there were none.

“Today the country is still in a very critical situation,” he says, and further questions the legitimacy of such action.

“How do you decide to attack a nation, a country? By what authority?,” he asks. “ While the U.S. president has the power to launch air strikes alone against Syria [while informing Congress], but what about the Arab League and the UN Security Council? Our friends in the West and the United States have not been attacked by Syria. With what legitimacy do they dare attack a country? Who appointed them as ‘policemen of democracy’ in the Middle East?”

Patriarch Twal wonders if leaders have pondered the consequences of such a war for Syria and its neighboring countries. “Is there a need to increase the number of deaths, now over 100,000?,” he asks. “It is necessary to listen to all those living in Syria, who cry out their pain and suffering that has lasted for two and a half years.  Has anyone thought of the mothers, children and innocent people?”

He also questions whether the countries that will attack Syria have considered the possible consequences and retaliation on their people and institutions, or more broadly, for the Middle East.

Although it’s said any attack will be specifically targeted and concentrated on a few strategic sites in order to prevent further use of chemical weapons, he said it’s known from experience “that a targeted attack will have collateral consequences – in particular, strong reactions that could ignite the region.”

Patriarch Twal began his statement by raising “his prayer to the Holy Spirit to enlighten the hearts of those who have in their hands the fate of the people.” Calling for caution, he hoped for “peace and security throughout this region of the world, which has already suffered too much.”

The Jordanian-born Patriarch noted that more than 500,000 Syrian refugees have fled to the Hashemite Kingdom since the outbreak of hostilities two and a half years ago.

On Thursday, the British parliament voted against military action, but the U.S. government appears determined to press ahead. France’s President Francois Hollande also said on Friday he continued to back targeted air strikes.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Vatican Radio Thursday, Archbishop Maroun Laham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, warned that “violence begets more violence.” Moreover, he stressed the region’s Christians are highly suspicious about the motives for such military action, especially given continuing doubts over the culpability of the chemical attack.

“This interest, on the part of the United States or of Europe, for human rights or for the defense of the weak, no one believes. No one believes it!,” Archbishop Laham said.

“All seek their own political and economic interests. So, since no one believes their good will, we do not want this wish for war applied to Syria. We hope that the voice of reason, and for us, of faith, will prevail and that the Syrian crisis find a political solution.”

Aid to the Church in Need has called on the faithful to begin a Week of Prayer for Peace in Syria. Beginning August 30 and lasting until September 6, the week was originally scheduled for October, but recent events brought it forward.

“We cannot wait,” the charity said in a statement. “The time to pray for peace for the Syrian people is now. Our brothers and sisters in Syria need it more than ever”.

The following intercessory prayer has been written for the week:

“God of compassion, listen to the cries of the people of Syria. Give comfort to those who suffer because of the violence.  Give comfort to those who mourn their dead, and strength to neighboring countries to welcome the refugees. Convert the hearts of those who resort to arms and protect those who work to promote peace.

God of hope, inspire leaders to choose peace instead of violence and to seek reconciliation with enemies. Inspire compassion in the universal Church for the Syrian people and give us hope for a future of peace based on justice for all.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace and Light of the world.