Pope Francis called on Sunday for respect of humanitarian law in Syria’s Idlib province, amid an escalation of a Syrian government offensive that has displaced more than half a million in two months. In effect, the Pope calls on the Orthodox Church to be more humanitarian. The Eastern Orthodox Church backs the Assad regime fully.
He told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s square that the reports from Idlib were “painful … particularly regarding the conditions of women and children, of people forced to flee from a military escalation.”
Meanwhile, Turkey has reinforced its military presence in the area, saying the advances by Russian-backed Syrian troops and their allies threaten a fresh humanitarian disaster.
ORTHODOX CHURCH STAYS SILENT
The Assad regime and Putin’s Air Force has been bombing schools, hospitals, and markets. It is an effort to strike fear into the Syrian civilians to prepare them for a new round of Assad terror once they fall under his control.
In the meantime, the Orthodox Church has remained silent about the Assad and the Russian massacres of civilians. It compelled Pope Francis to speak.
The crisis risks driving another wave of potential refugees to Turkey’s southern border. Ankara has threatened to act unless there is a pull back.
Pope Francis, addressing the Orthodox Church indirectly, said:
I renew my heartfelt appeal to the international community and all parties involved to use diplomatic means, dialogue and negotiations, in respect of international humanitarian law, to safeguard the lives and fate of civilians.
He then led the crowd in a special spontaneous prayer “for this beloved and martyred Syria”.
Turkey and Russia support opposing sides in Syria’s nearly nine-year civil war. It’s Constantinople circa 1453 playing out in Syria today. Both countries have forged a series of agreements since 2017 aimed at containing the bloodshed. But Russia is reneging on them. Its troops are fighting and dying in Idlib.
Turkey already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees. President Tayyip Erdogan threatened this week to repel the Russian-backed Syrian forces unless they withdraw from the region.
Reuters contributed to this article.