Vatican City, 14 January 2014 (VIS) – The Pontifical Academy for Sciences held a workshop in the Vatican yesterday on the civil war in Syria, in which an appeal was made for an immediate end to violence and the commencement of reconstruction and dialogue between the various communities within the country. The meeting, which took place a week before the upcoming Geneva Peace Conference, was inaugurated by the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.

In a communique published this morning, hope is expressed that the Geneva II Middle East Peace Conference will enable “the people of Syria, the region and the world to conceive of a new beginning, to put an end to the violence that has claimed over 130,000 lives and left a beautiful country in ruin and chaos”.

According to the international experts who participated in the workshop, the first step is a ceasefire and an end to violence: “all the combatants must lay down their arms; all foreign powers must adopt immediate measures to stop the flow of arms and their financing”.

“The Holy See is committed to supporting all religious faiths and communities in Syria, to reach new understanding and a meaningful restoration of trust, after years of violence between communities”, continues the communique. Therefore, dialogue must focus on “urgent needs of spiritual and communitarian reconstruction”.

The participants in the conference also expressed their concern for the situation of millions of Syrian refugees who “suffer extreme and potentially deadly deprivations in terms of food, healthcare, electricity, telecommunications, transport and other basic human needs”.