HUNDREDS of churches across the world joined a call to toll their bells for Aleppo last week, a city subject to “crimes of historic proportions” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, said.
The idea originated in Finland, where the Evangelical Lutheran parish of Kallio in Helsinki, began a daily toll on 12 October. The website Bells for Aleppo describes the ringing as “a demand to end the ongoing killing in besieged Aleppo, as well as an outcry against the devastating impact on the population and infrastructure caused by the bombings”.
The Vicar of Kallio, the Revd Dr Teemu Laajasalo, described it as a “funeral toll”.
Anglican churches that joined the campaign, which concluded on Tuesday — UN Day — included St Peter’s Cathedral in Adelaide, Tewkesbury Abbey, and St Paul’s, Thunder Bay, in Canada.
Last week, a call for the Syrian and Russian governments to stop their bombardment of Aleppo was issued by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church in Wales, the Church of Scotland, Quakers in Britain, the Methodist Church, and the United Reformed Church.
“We are appalled by the attacks on civilians by the Syrian government, Russian and other forces,” the Churches’ representatives wrote. “Aerial strikes on homes, hospitals and aid convoys are never acceptable, under any circumstances.”
On Tuesday, Russia said that it would extend a moratorium on air strikes on Aleppo for a ninth day. But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported ongoing strikes on rebel-held parts of the city.
A spokesman for the US State Department, John Kirby, told reporters that there had been “humanitarian pauses” that “kind of come in fits and starts”, but that “we still continue to see violence in Aleppo, and we’ve seen no aid getting in, and very few civilians leaving.”
Multilateral talks are continuing in Geneva, and the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, was trying to achieve “a plan in place that will give us a meaningful cessation of hostilities that will actually allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid”.
Russia has accused rebels of preventing an evacuation of civilians.
On Monday, the UN, which has not accessed eastern Aleppo since July, announced that it had abandoned plans to evacuate patients from the city, owing to delays in receiving approvals from local authorities, conditions issued by “non-state armed groups”, and the Syrian government’s objection to allowing relief into this part of the city.
The UN’s head of relief, Stephen O’Brien, said that he was “outraged that the fate of vulnerable civilians . . . rests mercilessly in the hands of parties who have consistently and unashamedly failed to put them above narrow political and military interests”.
Last Friday, Prince Zeid described Aleppo as “a slaughterhouse — a gruesome locus of pain and fear”. He spoke of “crimes of historic proportions”, and warned that “The collective failure of the international community to protect civilians and halt this bloodshed should haunt every one of us. . . Its costs will be borne by our children, and future generations.”