Syria: Holy Land Bishop on fears of Christians in region

2013-09-11 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) The Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories William Shomali has been speaking out about possible foreign intervention in Syria. Shomali says Christians across the Middle East do not want an international military strike on the regime of Bashar al Assad, fearing that regional chaos would ensue. Christians and many Muslims he suggests, are afraid fanatical elements within the rebel opposition would seek retaliation against those they see as supporters of the regime, while Christians have largely tried to stay neutral.
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With regard to what might come after Assad, Bishop Shomali told Vatican Radio “any transition between Assad and a successor should be done democratically through elections. This is what we want, also what the Holy Father wants when he said that he does not want a strike against Syria. On the contrary, he wants reconciliation and respect of everyone. Everyone should respect the other without violence.”

From his infrequent visits from Syrian Christians who have been able to make the dangerous trip into the Holy Land, Shomali confirms what we’ve been hearing in the news: that the hardships Syrians are bearing are getting worse: it is difficult even “to have bread for the daily living. Obtaining bread became a big hardship – even to have bread! Also to move from (one) city to another or to leave the country. Syria now is living a tragic situation where people are in need of peace and not of more violence.”

Despite the tensions in the region, Bishop Shomali says for the most part, the situation in the Holy Land is “quiet.” “We have many pilgrims who are coming despite all what is happening in the Middle East; they are coming, confidently, they visit… it’s quiet.”

Admitting that sometimes there are incidents of violence near the Temple Mount, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews, “There is some violence near the Temple Mount between Jews coming to pray there and young Palestinians who want to defend (the) Al Aqsa (mosque) against any expropriation...We hope that this issue will be resolved and that violence be avoided.”