Churches demand action to "end slaughter" in Aleppo

Syrians flee from bombing said to be by the Assad government. Image courtesy of Freedom House.

The Church of Scotland has urged the Syrian and Russian governments and other forces to stop their bombardment of Aleppo.

Right Rev Dr Russell Barr, Moderator of the General Assembly, said he was “appalled” by attacks on ordinary civilians which can never be passed off as a consequence of war.

He added that life was a gift from God and the “slaughter must end now”.

Dr Barr has signed a joint statement along with the leaders of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church in Wales, Quakers in Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church, who collectively represent more than one million people across the UK.

Ceasefire collapse

The humanitarian crisis in eastern Aleppo has become a tragedy.

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has stated that in the two weeks following the collapse of the ceasefire, 376 people have been killed, one third of whom were children, and a further 1,266 were wounded.

The international humanitarian organisation Medicines Sans Frontieres‎ said recently that there have been 23 recorded attacks on Aleppo's eight hospitals since the end of July. Seeking medical care has become a danger in itself.

While Russia has announced a temporary unilateral truce to allow civilians to evacuate Aleppo, concerns still remain about the conflict and the manner in which it is being conducted.

War crimes

The statement reads: “The destruction of Aleppo must stop.

“We are appalled by the attacks on civilians by the Syrian Government, Russian and other forces. Life is a gift of God. The targeting and killing of civilians can never be passed off merely as a consequence of war.

“Aerial strikes on homes, hospitals and aid convoys are never acceptable, under any circumstances.

“The responsibility for such attacks lies first and foremost with those who have carried them out.

“But the frequency of such attacks in Syria also underlines a failure on the part of the international community to uphold long-established principles concerning the immunity of civilians in conflict.

“Member states of the United Nations should seek to hold to account the parties responsible for indiscriminate attacks on men, women, children, hospitals, humanitarian and rescue workers, which could be construed as war crimes.

“The world cries out for an end to the death and destruction in Syria that daily adds to the largest flight of refugees since the Second World War.

“We join with our brothers and sisters of other churches and other faiths in praying for the people of Syria.

“We claim no simple solution to a complex political reality but offer the simple message of our faith: that every life is valued by God and that the slaughter must end now.”

Dr Russell Barr Dr Russell Barr

The signatories to the statement are:

The Moderator for the Church of Scotland - the Right Revd Dr Russell Barr.

The General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain - the Revd Lynn Green.

The President of the Methodist Church - the Revd Dr Roger Walton.

The General Secretary of the United Reformed Church - the Revd John Proctor.

Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain - Paul Parker

The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon - the Right Revd John Davies.

The Church of Scotland is a member of the Joint Public Issues Team which has produced a briefing paper on Syria