The head of the Russian Orthodox Church says security and religious freedom of Christians in the Middle East must be ensured along with the security and religious freedom of the other citizens in Syrian society.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia sent a message on Wednesday to the participants in the Geneva 2 international conference that is seeking a peace plan to end the Syrian civil war.
The conference began on Wednesday in Montreux, Switzerland, a town on Lake Geneva.
“Security and religious freedom of Christians, who have lived in the Middle East for over two thousand years and who are an integral part of the Syrian society, must be ensured along with the security and religious freedom of all other citizens,” said Kirill.
The Russian Orthodox Church, the world’s biggest Christian Orthodox tradition, urged the leaders of 31 nations who have converged on the Swiss lakeside town to “exert every possible effort to end the hostilities immediately and unconditionally so that dialogue could begin.”
Christian Aid, Tearfund and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) have joined with other Christian organisations to call for a peaceful solution to the ongoing crisis in Syria as delegates meet for the Geneva II summit today.
The long-awaited international peace conference has invited representatives from Syria’s government and its opposition alliance to meet with officials from 30 countries, including the UK’s Foreign Secretary William Hague, to try and negotiate peace. It marks the first time that members of opposing Syrian factions have come together since civil war broke out almost three years ago.
Christian leaders from Syria, the Middle East Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches and the Holy See released a statement on January 20 in which they urged participants of Geneva II “to pursue an immediate cessation of all armed confrontation and hostility within Syria”.
“We call on you to develop a comprehensive and inclusive process towards establishing a just peace and rebuilding Syria…Geneva II must be transformed into a peace-building process,” the statement read.
“All efforts must be made to secure the peace, territorial integrity and independence of Syria.”
Today in the British House of Commons Stephen Phillips MP asked what steps the UK Government is taking to protect minority Christian communities in the middle east. He specifically drew attention to the plight of Christians in Iraq, and their ongoing mass exodus from the land into safer Kurdish controlled areas.
Naomi Long MP continued the questioning of The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugh Robertson MP, asking what actions the UK Government were taking to ensure that the voices of Christians and other religious minorities are heard during the negotiations at the upcoming Geneva II peace conference, to ensure that freedom of religion and belief are enshrined in any new constitution.
Support Syrian Christians welcomes this focus on the importance of Christian and other minority representation at Geneva II as a means to fostering a lasting peaceful settlement in Syria.