Archbishop of Aleppo: Save Syria from fundamentalist, jihadist mercenaries

Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need

The Archbishop of Aleppo has urged the West to act to save Syria from the "fundamentalist, jihadist mercenaries who are killing anyone who would speak of freedom, citizenship, religious freedom and democracy".

Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart called the West to help Syria reclaim "our freedom and our rights" from ISIS.

Speaking at the launch of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need's report Persecuted and Forgotten?, he described how ISIS has been destroying his nation through massacre and destruction, but most significantly through removal of basic human rights and freedom:

"The country has been in a flood of blood. They have destroyed our economy, our industry, our churches, everything.

"We suffer a lot, but the thing that we are suffering most from is that they are taking away our right to be and our right to choose what we want to be.

"We need you to support us to get back our rights and a political solution to our problem with the condition that each single citizen may be what he likes to be. May choose what he wants to be. May have full citizenships. He must respect everyone and everyone has to respect him."

Fundamental to this fight, according to Archbishop Jeanbart, is the freedom of religion. Unlike ISIS, who he describes as not accepting anyone whose opinions differ from theirs, he hoped for a society in which each person is free to choose their faith with no fear of repercussions.

"Nobody should be condemned because he is Christian or Muslim. If one day I feel myself believing in Mohammed I will leave my Bishop responsibilities and become a Muslim. If a Muslim is convinced Christianity is true he has to do the same and nobody can object to this choice."

He painted a vivid picture of the reality Syrians face, highlighting that in the last month alone, 50 Christians have been killed, "many of them savagely executed by ISIS."

"Turkish authorities have declared three days of national mourning for what happened three days ago in Ankara for a few dozens of causalities. Even if it was just one we would mourn. But what should Syrian authorities do? After years of violence and terrorist acts which killed thousands and thousands of innocent people in the country, perhaps it should declare three days of national mourning."

He suggested there is hope amidst the bleak reality; in comparison to Syria, where "anyone who is not fundamentalist Muslim has no right to live", the diversity of the population of London shows mutual respect is possible.

"I wonder, 'how are you capable of getting all these people together?' Because you respect the freedom of every single one and give them all rights."

When asked whether he thought Russia's bombing in Syria was a good thing, his answer implied that it brought hope.

He said bishops he spoke to said "they have now some hope that the problem will be sorted and war will finish since Russia intervened and struck seriously Daesh [ISIS]. That is what they think."

Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn has now said that he backs Hilary Benn's statement on the UK's policy towards potentially bombing ISIS in Syria:

"On the question of airstrikes against Isil/Daesh in Syria, it should now be possible to get agreement on a UN security council chapter VII resolution given that four of the five permanent members – the USA, France, Britain and Russia – are already taking military action against Isil/Daesh in Iraq or Syria or in both countries," he said.

"Of course, we know that any resolution may be vetoed, and in those circumstances we would need to look at the position again."