Pope Francis and Syrian Patriarchs react to airstrikes

Church leaders including Pope Francis and the Syrian Patriarchs are condemning last weekend’s airstrikes by the United States (US), Britain and France.

War planes and ships launched over 100 missiles at three chemical weapons storage and research facilities near Damascus and Homs.

The airstrikes sought to punish President Bashar al-Assad for a suspected chemical attack in the rebel-held suburb of Douma, east of Damascus, on 7 April.

Forty-two people died in the attack.

According to the Pentagon, the airstrikes aimed to take “the heart out of” of President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons programme.

They say the strikes targeted a research centre in Damascus, along with a chemical weapons storage facility and command post west of Homs.

At the same time, the Pentagon acknowledges the Syrian government can probably still attack with chemical agents.

In a joint statement, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, the Melkite-Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem have denounced the strikes.

Their statement says they condemn “the brutal aggression that took place [during the weekend] against our precious country … under the allegations that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons.”

They say the airstrikes are a “clear violation of the international laws and the UN Charter”, and described them as an “unjustified assault” on a sovereign country that is a member of the UN.

“It causes us great pain that this assault comes from powerful countries to which Syria did not cause any harm in any way.

“The allegations of the USA and other countries that the Syrian army is using chemical weapons and that Syria is a country that owns and uses this kind of weapon is a claim that is unjustified and unsupported by sufficient and clear evidence.”

Pope Francis has called for peace in the region.

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News category: World.

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