29 August, 2016/ DAMASCUS, Syria - Christian patriarchs residing in Damascus urged the international community to "stop the siege of the Syrian people" and to lift international sanctions, which they say are deepening the
The three Christian leaders - Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II and Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X - directed their Aug. 23 appeal to "the international conscience and the concerned countries."
Although "the main goals of imposing these sanctions are political," the patriarchs said, they have affected all Syrian people, "especially the poor and working class, whose ability to provide their basic daily needs such as food and medical care are greatly affected."
"Despite the resolution of the Syrian people in the face of the crisis, the social situation is getting worse and the poverty and suffering of the Syrian people are constantly increasing," the patriarchs said.
In their statement, the patriarchs pointed to specific consequences that are crippling the country and isolating it from the rest of the world. Those include the absence of new investments, a ban on international flights to Syria, reduced exports to the country and the placing of some Syrian companies on the blacklist for international trade, all of which the patriarchs said "are considered to be economic measures toward the isolation of Syria from the international community."
They criticized most Western countries for closing their embassies and said a ban on international banking transactions with Syria "puts the people in a financial difficulty."
The patriarchs said that in addition to helping to improve the dire living conditions in Syria, lifting the sanctions would facilitate efforts of church and humanitarian groups in providing aid, thus reducing exploitation of the suffering Syrian people.
"We hope that the international community responds to the humanitarian appeal of the Syrians: 'Stop the siege on the Syrian people! Lift the international sanctions on Syria and allow this people to live in dignity, which is a basic right to all the peoples of the world.'"
A day earlier, in a meeting with Russian Ambassador to Syria Alexander Kinshchak, Patriarch Aphrem requested Russia's help for the release of two kidnapped archbishops of Aleppo. Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul, brother of Patriarch John, were kidnapped in April 2013 in northern Syria while on a humanitarian mission.
"Stop the siege of the Syrian People! Lift the International Sanctions on Syria"
A Humanitarian Appeal from the Patriarchs of Syria to the International Conscience and the Concerned Countries Since the beginning of the crisis in Syria in 2011, the impact of the economic and financial sanctions increased on the daily lives of Syrian citizens. This constituted a huge burden which deepened the suffering of the Syrian people. These sanctions represent another aspect of the crisis and result in more pressure on individuals, institutions, companies, and consequently on the entire people.
The absence of new investments and the ban on international flights to Syria, as well as the reduction of exportation to the country and listing some Syrian companies on the blacklist of international trade, are considered to be economical measures towards the isolation of Syria from the international community. Furthermore, the closing of most of the embassies of western countries in Syria and the withdrawal of their employees limits the diplomatic relations and the foreign interaction of Syria with other countries. Moreover, the ban on international banking transactions with Syria puts the people in a financial difficulty. It impoverishes the citizens and threatens them in their daily bread and deprives them of their human dignity.
As a result, the prices of basic necessities become higher due to the drop in the value of the local currency and its direct influence on the power to buy. This had serious consequences on the Syrian society in all its components. It impacted all aspects of everyday life and led to the rise of new social problems.
Though the main goals of imposing these sanctions are political, they touched the life of the entire Syrian people, especially the poor and working class whose ability to provide their basic daily needs such as food and medical care are greatly affected. Despite the resolution of the Syrian people in the face of the crisis, the social situation is getting worse and the poverty and suffering of the Syrian people are constantly increasing. Therefore, we, the three Patriarchs residing in Damascus where we closely feel the suffering of the people of Syria of all religions and denominations, raise our voices in this humanitarian appeal demanding the lifting of the economic sanctions imposed on the Syrian people who remain attached to their homeland and to the civilizations that exist for thousands of years.
Our appeal comes as an invitation to take extraordinary measures, and make brave, wise and responsible decisions that have a humanitarian dimension based on the Human Rights Charter and other International Covenants, mainly to lift the economic sanctions on Syria. This will meet the aspirations of the citizens who seek to improve their living conditions. It will strengthen their attachment to the land of their ancestors and help restore the harmony among all citizens. Likewise, it will limit the exploitation of the misery of the Syrian people by groups who do not want the common good of the country. It will also facilitate the work of our ecclesial and humanitarian organizations in conferring humanitarian aid and delivering medicine and medical equipment to those who need it throughout Syria. Our appeal resonates with the desire of some countries and humanitarian organizations to help the Syrian people who is suffering from the severity of the crisis. It will contribute to the relief of its suffering and dealing with the consequences of the crisis.
We hope that the international community responds to the humanitarian appeal of the Syrians: "Stop the siege on the Syrian People! Lift the International Sanctions on Syria and allow this people to live in dignity which is a basic right to all the peoples of the world".
Damascus, August 23, 2016
Greek Orthodox Patriarch
Ignatius Aphrem II Syriac Orthodox Patriarch
Gregorius III Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch
Article in Russian: Предстоятели христианских Церквей призывают отменить международные санкции против Сирии