Church leaders from Syria, Russia, the United States and European nations have called a political solution the only way towards peace in Syria.
This stance was shared in a communique they issued following their meeting with Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General, and Lakhdar Brahimi, UN-Arab League joint representative for Syria.
The meeting was held on Wednesday, 18 September and was organised by the World Council of Churches (WCC) at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland, where participants discussed the role of the churches in effectively moving all parties in Syria towards a peace agreement.
WCC General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, who moderated the meeting, said that the “Geneva 2 conference must not fail now when thousands of people have already died.”
Dr Tveit went on to say that all parties, inside and outside Syria, and the UN Security Council have to take their responsibility to make the talks work, and churches must support this process.
He added that since the Geneva 1 conference has resulted in little or no progress, the urgency of the upcoming Geneva 2 is more crucial than ever.
A communique issued at the end of the meeting said, “Churches must continue to raise their voice in their congregations, in their societies and with their governments. We must strengthen the public outcry so that those in power will protect the common interest of humanity.”
It continues: “We believe there can be no military solution to the crisis in Syria. It is time for the international community to assume its responsibility to end the violence and initiate a political process that brings peace for all the people of Syria.”
At the meeting, Kofi Annan stressed the importance of all parties engaging in the peace process in order make a much-needed second peace conference in Geneva successful.
Reflecting on the role of the churches, he said that along with their prayers, churches have influence over their congregations. “Most of them [churches] are against the use of force and further militarisation.” However, their message must go beyond this, said Annan, and ask their politicians and parliamentarians to speak out for peace-building in Syria.
Lakhdar Brahimi also appreciated churches’ support for peace in Syria, saying that churches are an integral part of the Syrian heritage and their “destruction is equal to amputation”.
Brahimi added that “we cannot give up on Syrian people because they deserve better than what they are experiencing”. He expressed his hope for stronger efforts, cooperation from all parties and steps ahead in the peace process toward a political solution to the Syrian conflict.
International ecumenical organisations and WCC member churches have sponsored a number of humanitarian initiatives in Syria that were described in the meeting at Bossey.