Vincent Nichols calls for prayer for peace in Syria

APFighting in Syria has been heavy in the city of Homs

Vincent Nichols yesterday called people to join in prayers for peace in Syria and for the success of the planned talks this week between all sides in the conflict.

The Geneva II conference on Syria is due to begin on Wednesday in Switzerland with the aim of finding a political solution to the ongoing conflict.

Nichols, Cardinal-designate and Archbishop of Westminster, urged people to pray for the success of the peace talks.

"Pope Francis and the bishops of Syria have all pleaded for peace between the warring factions in that troubled land in which four out of every ten people have now fled their homes," he said.

"We pray that this vale of tears may be comforted with an end to fighting. We pray that its children, banished from a normal life, and those many people now in exile, may be blessed by the mercy of God.

"We pray that those attending the talks will focus all their efforts on creating peace and respect for the dignity of every Syrian so that families may again flourish within their own land. We pray that aid may reach those in such desperate need.

"God knows our inmost hearts and will surely heed our prayers and give grace to those who take part in these crucial negotiations."

Christians globally are moving to support the Geneva II Syrian peace conference. The World Council of Churches (WCC) has presented a statement to Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League's special envoy to Syria, appealing for an end to hostilities.

Brahimi will be presenting the statement, which has the support of the World Evangelical Alliance, to the Geneva II conference.

The WCC's statement calls for "immediate cessation of all armed confrontation and hostility within Syria", ensuring that "all vulnerable communities in Syria and refugees in neighbouring countries receive appropriate humanitarian assistance" and that "a comprehensive and inclusive process toward establishing a just peace and rebuilding Syria".

Talking to WCC radio, the general secretary of the WCC, Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said: "There is no military solution... it has to be a political solution and a peace plan.

"We call now for urgent action towards a just peace in Syria."

Discussing the statement, Dr Tveit said "...we make it clear that the churches around the world, together with the churches in the Middle East speak with one voice. Whether we are Catholics, Orthodox, Protestant, whatever. We see that also this is a strong voice and hopefully a voice they see as a strong support."

Talking about the scale of the need in Syria, Dr Sharon E Watkins, general secretary of the Disciples of Christ Church in the US and Canada, said on WCC radio: "We heard of a family, now living outside of Syria, a whole family, mum, dad, and children all trying to stay warm under one blanket, with no stove.

"This situation is multiplied again and again and again millions of times. It's a situation that needs the attention of people of faith and people of goodwill around the world."