By Vatican News staff writer
Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher has called for a renewed and decisive commitment from the international community in support of Syria, amid its long-running situation of conflict and violence.
The Holy See's Secretary for Relations with States made the appeal on Tuesday during the Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region.
The meeting, held in a virtual format in view of Covid-19 restrictions, aimed at reasserting the international community’s continued support for the country, as well as mobilizing a comprehensive and credible political solution to the conflict in line with resolutions of the UN Security Council.
On 15 March, Syria marked ten years of hostilities, in which an untold number have died and several million have been displaced, creating a humanitarian crisis that has been further exacerbated by the Covid-19 health emergency.
Visible signs of hope and solidarity
Archbishop Gallagher, in a video message during the conference, highlighted the “urgent need to find timely, realizable solutions to the dramatic situation.”
In order to help Syria and to “restore faith in their country and their future, visible signs of hope and solidarity are the sole remedy,” said the Archbishop. These, he insisted, “are the only antidote to fatigue and despair.”
However, he noted, the pressing question is, “How can we give the people what they desperately need?”
The role of the Church
The Archbishop underscored that, in the decade-long conflict in Syria, the Church has emphasized the response to the humanitarian needs of the population.
He noted that “more than 80 Catholic institutions intervene in various sectors in solidarity with multiple actors and institutions in Syria and in neighboring countries, employing roughly 6,000 professionals and more than 8,000 volunteers, who join the network of priests and religious present in the various territories.”
At the same time, the ecclesial network has committed “nearly two billion USD to reach about 4.5 million beneficiaries per year” - of which about half, more than two million, are in Syria.
Nonetheless, he stressed that “humanitarian aid destined for the region cannot remain bound to exclusively support immediate needs,” as medium- and long-term programs for rehabilitation, peace-building and development, which are necessary for the economic recovery and reconstruction of the social fabric of the country, must be produced.
He added that in light of the immense needs and sufferings of the people, all of this aid is a mere “pipeline of water in the desert” as reported by the Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, Cardinal Mario Zenari during a meeting with the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See in October 2020.
Appeal to the international community
Archbishop Gallagher went on to emphasize that aid from the international community is “still urgent and necessary at this time,” but is not an adequate long-term solution.
“Do we want to build peace in Syria?” he asked.
If so, he said: “then we must begin to direct significant, adequate ‘channels’ of resources to build hospitals, schools, houses, factories and to restart the economy. Solutions exist, but peace will not come to Syria without reconstruction and without jumpstarting the economy. We must find a way forward.”
Re-echoing the words of Pope Francis at the interreligious meeting at the Plain of Ur during his recent Apostolic Journey to Iraq, the Archbishop said, “Peace does not demand winners or losers, but rather brothers and sisters who, for all the misunderstandings and hurts of the past, are journeying from conflict to unity.”
Concluding, Archbishop Gallagher reiterated Pope Francis’ appeal for a renewed commitment by the international community, so that those in conflict would lay down their arms and “allow for the social fabric in Syria to be mended and for reconstruction and economic recovery to begin in earnest.”