THE crisis in Syria is the result of "murderous mercenaries" who
are intent on destroying a peaceful nation on the road to reform,
the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III said on
Delivering the annual Embrace the Middle East lecture at St
James's, Piccadilly, Patriarch Gregorios painted a positive picture
of Syria before the three-year conflict, and argued against foreign
intervention. "We believe in our nation, our country, and our
"This war is not what we normally think of as civil war - with
Syrians fighting Syrians - but is rather a disastrous influx of
more than 2000 outside groups intent upon destabilising Syrian
society as we have known it for millennia."
He described the centuries-long peaceful co-existence of
Christians and Muslims, including his own personal experience of
growing up in Syria: his mother breastfed him together with a
Patriarch Gregorios gave a favourable picture of the Syrian
President, Bashar al-Assad, and suggested that life in Syria
retained some normality: "Jobs are available, agriculture is
developing. . . We use home-grown wheat despite sanctions". The
government provided land for churches, and both mosques and
churches enjoyed free electricity and water supplies. Freedom of
worship was guaranteed.
He suggested that, before the outbreak of the conflict, Syria
was already on the road to reform. He spoke of the establishment of
Peace in Syria must be created by Syrians, he argued, and he
called for the next conference to be held in Syria rather than in
Geneva. He called on Christian leaders to "listen to the voice of
the Church in Syria. Isn't it to our benefit to be loyal to our
country and to our citizenship? Christians love everyone. . . We
can build a new world, a new government, and witness a true Arab
Spring of peace."
More than 150,000 people have been killed since the conflict in
Syria began in 2011. Last week, the organisation Human Rights Watch
said that "evidence strongly suggests that Syrian-government
helicopters dropped barrel bombs embedded with cylinders of
chlorine gas on three towns in northern Syria in mid-April
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is
investigating the allegations, which the Syrian government
MORE than 33 million people are refugees in their own
countries as a result of civil wars and faction fighting,
writes Paul Wilkinson. In Syria, for example, one family
flees its home every 60 seconds, a report from the Internal
Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), part of the Norwegian
Refugee Council, says.
The total, calculated up to the end of last year, is a
record, jumping 4.5 million from the figure in 2012.
The Secretary General of the Refugee Council, Jan
Egeland, said that the numbers confirmed "a disturbing upward trend
of internal displacement since IDMC first began monitoring and
analysing displacement back in the late '90s.
"The dramatic increase in forced displacement in 2013,
and the fact that the average amount of time people worldwide are
living in displacement is now a staggering 17 years, all suggest
that something is going terribly wrong in how we are. . . dealing
with this issue."
The report found that almost two-thirds of the total
came from just five countries: Syria, Colombia, Nigeria, the
Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan.
The total included 8.2 million people who were forced
from their homes during 2013 - up 1.6 million on the previous year,
the vast majority in the Central African Republic, the DRC, and
Mr Egeland described Syria as "the largest,
fastest-evolving internal displacement crisis in the world. . . Not
only do armed groups control the areas where internal displacement
camps are located, these camps are badly managed, provide
inadequate shelter [and] sanitation, and limited
"Further to this, the IDMC report reveals how large
concentrations of IDPs have been particularly targeted by artillery
bombardments and air strikes. . .
"We have to sit up, listen up, and act up by working
more closely together to end this misery for millions;
humanitarians alone cannot make this happen. Global internal
displacement is everyone's problem, from politicians to private
companies, development actors, and lawyers. We all have a role to