Professor Andrea Riccardi: “I launch an appeal for Aleppo. Something terrible is unfolding. And it is being ignored…”
I launch an appeal for Aleppo. Something terrible is unfolding. And it is ignored. Or people watch on, hopeless. It is two years that people have been fighting in Aleppo. In July 2012 the battle began in the most populous city of Syria. However, its two million inhabitants stayed on, preserving the thousand-year-old coexistence of Muslims and Christians. The city is segmented: the majority of the districts are in the hands of the government, but there are areas under rebel control, though they have withdrawn since Summer 2012. The rebels, in turn, are pressed from southwest by the government forces. Surrounded by the opposition, including intransigent and bloodthirsty fundamentalists, the people cannot leave the city. For Christians, to leave the area under government control means to risk their lives.
The two bishops of Aleppo, Gregorios Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, who were seized more than a year ago, are well aware of this. Aleppo is the third “Christian” city in the Arab world, after Cairo and Beirut: there used to be 300 thousand Christians!
The people are suffering. Assad’s air forces strike the areas under rebel control with missiles and barrel bombs; in the meanwhile the rebels bomb the other districts with mortars and handmade rockets. The people are starving and missing medicines. The jihadist groups threaten the city by stopping the water. The war is terrible, and death comes from all directions. Through underground tunnels, “enemy” buildings are mined. How can people survive? This slaughter has lasted two years: it must stop. An international intervention is necessary to free Aleppo from the siege. The governments involved need to take responsibility: Turkey, on the rebels’ side, Russia, which holds an authoritative position for Assad. Saving Aleppo is worth more than the victory of one side or the other on the field! Humanitarian corridors need to be established and supplies for the civilians provided. Then it is necessary to negotiate, setting no deadline, the end of the fighting. A UN peacekeeping force would be appropriate. Of course, it takes time to assemble it and it would require collaboration from Damascus. In the meanwhile the people of Aleppo die. Peace needs to be imposed, in the name of those who suffer, establishing a kind of “Aleppo, open city.”