by Jack Long
The missile strikes directed by the United States and its allies against the Syrian government have been condemned as a brutal aggression in a letter from three Christian Patriarchs from the region.
The offensive in question was a response to an April 7th attack allegedly carried out by the Syrian government against its own citizens in the town of Douma. The Syrian American Medical Society issued a press release the day after the attack on Douma: “more than 500 cases -the majority of whom are women and children - were brought to local medical centers with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent.” SAMS reported forty-three casualties from suffocation in line with what would be expected from those exposed to chemical weapons.
Coming nearly a year after the Syrian government used chemical weapons to kill more than ninety people in the town of Khan Shaykhun, the attack prompted condemnation from officials in the U.S., France, and the United Kingdom, while Syrian allies like Russia denied evidence of any attack. On April 10th, the U.S. and Russia proposed resolutions on the attack to the United Nations Security Council in order to respond to the attack, but the two countries vetoed each other’s resolutions and no action was taken by the Security Council.
On April 13th, the U.S., France, and the U.K. struck three Syrian chemical weapons facilities with 105 missiles. In a televised address that night, President Trump said the attacks were carried out “to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons.” The effects of the strike have been disputed. Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie spoke on behalf of the U.S. Defense Department and said, “[Initial] indications are that we accomplished our military objectives without material interference. I would use three words to describe the operation: precise, overwhelming and effective,” whereas the government-run Syrian Arab News Agency claimed that most of the missiles were intercepted and that some caused “the injury of three civilians.”
On April 14th, a joint letter from the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, and the Melkite-Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem was released which emphatically denounced the U.S. and its allies for attacking Syria in what they repeatedly called a “unjust” or “brutal aggression.” The letter enumerated nine key points the three Patriarchs all affirm, which all together describe the American strikes as “a clear violation of the international laws” that “destroys the chances for a peaceful political solution” and “encourages the terrorist organizations” based on allegations against the Syrian government the Patriarchs describe as “unsupported by sufficient and clear evidence.”
Beyond criticizing what had happened, the statement also looked to the future and asked for further responsibility from two relevant groups: the UN Security Council and the churches of America, France, and the U.K. While the UN was called to promote peace and not war, the churches of the Western allies were called on religious grounds to condemn their countries’ actions in order “to fulfill their Christian duties, according to the teachings of the Gospel.” The statement ended with praise for the Syrian army’s “courage, heroism and sacrifices” and an offer of pray for peace around the world.