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Vatican on Syrian Victims

A member of the Free Syrian Army helps women as they leave a shelled building in Aleppo 16 Sept. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, says aid to victims of Syrian violence and respect for their rights must be an international priority. (Photo: CNS/Zain Karam, Reuters) 

18 Sep 2012 – By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The U.N. Human Rights Council must approach the crisis in Syria from “the perspective of the victims,” and rally the international community to press for the end of hostilities and the immediate offering of humanitarian aid to the suffering, a Vatican official said.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, told the council, “Respect for the fundamental rights of the victims of this conflict is, in fact, the road that can lead to healing human relations and to peace, an indispensable prerequisite for negotiations and an effective response to the expectations of the people for a democratic new beginning.”

The archbishop addressed the council Sept. 17 during a special session with members of the U.N. commission monitoring the situation in Syria where, since March 2011, troops loyal to President Bashar Assad have been battling forces seeking an end to his rule.

According to some estimates, 30,000 people have died, thousands more have been injured, some 250,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring countries, and 1.2 million people have been internally displaced, Archbishop Tomasi said.

The refugees and displaced people — particularly the children — need immediate humanitarian assistance, he said.

The Vatican has been following the situation, praying and pleading for a ceasefire and negotiated settlement because of “the total disregard” for civilians and “the risk of destabilization in the entire region,” he said.

“This violent conflict shows the futility of war as a means to resolve disagreements,” he said.

Archbishop Tomasi echoed Pope Benedict XVI’s call for an end to shipments of weapons to Syria. The pope, speaking to reporters on his plane to Lebanon Sept. 14, had said sending weapons to the country is “a grave sin.”

The archbishop also said the international community must unite and push harder for a solution to the Syrian conflict.

“The international community should put aside selfish interests, support the political process for a cessation of violence and for an orderly and inclusive participation of all groups in the management of the country as citizens of equal dignity and responsibility,” he said.

The Arab Spring pro-democracy movement, which was at the origin of the anti-Assad protests, was the expression of a desire by young Arabs for greater freedom, better employment and an opportunity to participate fully in public life, the archbishop said.

Frustrating the positive aspirations of the young, he said, will create long-term damage and mean missing “a historical opportunity for progress.”

Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Vatican United Nations Arab Spring