VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is urging the government of Syria to respect its citizens’ efforts for reform and to seek a solution to the current conflict in an environment of tolerance, co-existence and reconciliation.
The Pope stated this in a letter he hand delivered Thursday to Hussan Edin Aala of Syria, the new ambassador of Syria to the Holy See, upon receiving the envoy’s letters of credence.
Since March, a bloody crackdown by government forces on protesters who have been calling for the end of President Bashar al-Assad’s rule has left more than 1,200 dead, including 77 children.
The number of fatalities rose today as Syrian security forces opened fire on pro-democracy demonstrators in various locations across Syria, resulting in an estimated 32 deaths.
Without mentioning the “Arab Spring,” which is the name given to a series of anti-regime movements throughout the Middle East, the Holy Father noted that “the events of the past months […] demonstrate the desire for a better future in the areas of political, economic, and social life.”
“It is greatly desirable,” he continued, “that this evolution not take place in a climate of intolerance, discrimination, or conflict and, sill less, of violence, but rather in a climate of absolute respect for the truth, for co-existence, for the legitimate rights of the person and the collective, and of reconciliation.”
“These are the principles that should guide the authorities, keeping always in mind the aspiration of civil society and international directives,” the Pontiff added.
Benedict XVI also reflected on building national unity, which he said can be constructed “in a lasting way through the recognition of the centrality and dignity of the human person.”
“The path toward unity and stability in every nation passes through the recognition of the inalienable dignity of every human person,” he said. “Therefore, the latter must be at the center of institutions, of laws, and of societies’ action.”
The Holy Father underlined the significant contribution of Christianity to Syria, which he said has “traditionally been an example of tolerance, concord, and harmonious relations between Christians and Muslims.”
He then encouraged Syrian Christians “to develop bonds of fraternity with everyone,” and to work together with their Muslim countrymen “for the common good.”
With regard to peace in the broader Middle East region, Benedict XVI called for “a comprehensive solution” that would “be the fruit of a compromise and not of a unilateral decision imposed by force.”
In conclusion, the Pope thanked the people of Syria for accepting numerous Iraqi refugees into their country, many of whom are from Christians.
“I heartily thank the Syrian people for their generosity,” he said.
Some 87% of Syrians are Muslim, and 10% are Christians. Another 3% are Druze. The UN Refugee Agency reported last October that since 2003, some 290,000 Iraqis have sought refuge in Syria. While many have since left for other countries or returned to Iraq, some 150,000 remain in Syria.
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