Syrian church leaders blast 'brutal' and 'unjustified' airstrikes

Western airstrikes against President Assad were 'unjustified aggression' and a 'clear violation of the international laws', Syrian Church leaders have said.

In a joint statement the heads of three major churches said they 'condemn and denounce the brutal aggression' and denied the Syrian army either owned or had used chemical weapons.

ReutersWestern powers have no plans for further missile strikes on Syria but will assess their options if Damascus uses chemical weapons again, Boris Johnson said on Sunday, as debate raged over the legality and effectiveness of the raids.

It 'is a claim that is unjustified and unsupported by sufficient and clear evidence', the three church leaders, who support President Bashar al-Assad's regime, said.

The statement marks a backlash against the strikes by the US, the UK and France on early Saturday morning and was signed by John X, the Greek Orthodox Patriach of Antioch and all the East, Ignatius Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox Patriach of Antioch and all the East, and Jospeh Absi, Melike-Greek Catholic Patriach of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem.

They called on the United Nations' Security Council, where France, the US and the UK all hold permanent seats, to 'play its natural role in bringing peace rather than contribute to escalation of wars'.

They also urged churches in the UK, US and France to 'fulfill their Christian duties' and 'condemn this aggression and to call their governments to commit to the protection of international peace'.

The three church leaders, who tend to see Assad's rule as providing stability and tolerance for Syria's Christian minority, blasted the airstrikes as 'an unjustified assault on a sovereign country'.

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

'This brutal aggression destroys the chances for a peaceful political solution and leads to escalation and more complications. This unjust aggression encourages the terrorist organisations and gives momentum to continue in their terrorism.'

The statement went on to praise the Syrian Arab Army and 'pray for the souls of the martyrs and the recovery of the wounded' .

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, released a prayer for peace in Syria on Saturday but has not given his views on the airstrikes.

Earlier this week the Methodist Conference in the UK urged the government against launching airstrikes and the Anglican Church in Wales backed calls for a diplomatic approach instead of military intervention in response to the suspected chemical attack in Douma, Syria.

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