Syrian bishop: Watching Christians leave is 'an experience of death'

The solution to the Syrian crisis is political, not military, the Chaldean bishop of Aleppo has said.

Residents walk amidst the rubble at a site damaged by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar Al-Assad in Aleppo's al-Saliheen district, May 1, 2015.Reuters

Antoine Audo, who has watched his country be destroyed through various conflicts over the last four years said outside states must look within themselves and stop fuelling the conflict through selling arms or through their own political interests.

"I think the solution is political," he told Catholic News Agency (CNA). "We have to stop giving arms and money to those groups, and to find a way for a political solution from the Syrian [people], from inside and not from outside."

His comments came ahead of a news conference yesterday entitled "Syrian Christians: help us to stay."

During a question and answer session for the event, the bishop said that "at an international level, [there is] a determination to continue the war, to destroy, to divide, until everything has been levelled to the ground, like they did in Iraq, like they did in Libya, like they are doing in Yemen."

Russia has been donating millions of dollars of weapons, including missile systems to help keep president Bashar al-Assad in power, according to Reuters.

On the other side, the United States has contributed to the conflict via a secret CIA operation aimed at training and arming Syrian rebels, the Washington Post reports. The rebels have additional support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the Middle East.

Bishop Audo described the desperate poverty in Aleppo as a result of the conflict and said he understood why Christians were leaving. However he wanted to do everything he could to enable them to stay.

"It's not easy," he said. Watching Christians leaving is "an experience of death, an experience of the end of our presence."

"Not for me as a Chaldean bishop, but for all patriarchs, all bishops, for the whole community," he said, but conceded that "we don't have another choice in front of us. This is the drama we are living today."

Since the war first broke out in 2011, 250,000 Syrians have died, 11,000 of whom are children. On top of this over half the Syrian population are displaced as a result of the conflict and four million have fled overseas.

The bishop's comments are timely as David Cameron considers whether or not to make parliament vote on bombing ISIS strongholds in Syria. Currently Britain targets ISIS in Iraq but parliament rejected a vote to extend the bombing in to Syria.

The prime minister has expressed his desire to extend British military action into Syria but the elevation of anti-war veteran Jeremy Corbyn to leader of the opposition may make that more difficult. Corbyn is chairman of Stop the War Coalition.