Tuesday 23 July 2013
Open debate on the Middle East
Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Francis ChullikattApostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nationsin the Security CouncilOpen Debate on the Middle East(New York, 23 July 2013)
Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Francis Chullikatt Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in the Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East (New York, 23 July 2013)   Madam President,             Allow me to congratulate you on the assumption of the presidency of the Security Council and to thank you for convening this meeting. Madam President,             The Holy See, repeatedly, has voiced its urgent concern for the peace and welfare of all the peoples in the Middle East, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. Pope Francis, in his first Easter message on March 31st this year, appealed for “peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted too long. Peace … above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort. How much blood has been shed!  And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?” Madam President, Given the extreme seriousness of what has been unfolding in Syria, especially during these past few months, my delegation wishes to focus its remarks today on the unbearable suffering of its people. The whole world has been shocked by the ever increasing statistics describing the dire humanitarian situation in Syria. The tragedy of such an intolerable situation demands from us immediate measures to assist some 1.8 million refugees (almost 10% of the population of Syria) who now seek peace, security and safety in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. Further, there are over 4 million IDPs, constituting nearly 18% of the population.  6.8 million victims of this conflict require urgent humanitarian assistance, half of whom are children. More than four million people have lost their homes. Moreover, the challenges faced by neighboring countries in assisting and protecting refugees appear to contribute to further political destabilization in the region. Countless have been wounded and are in need of medical attention which, because of damaged infrastructure, is becoming increasingly difficult to provide. Much needed medications are not available for those with chronic diseases and those in pain. And of course, the saddest figure of all is the growing death toll, nearly 5.000 per month since last March. At this rate, there could be over 100,000 deaths by August. Madam President, On its political side, this destructive conflict is only being exacerbated by outside influences and extremist groups which see it as an opportunity for political or ideological gains rather than as an appalling disaster that is engulfing Syria. The tragedies and killings of groups and individuals have been widely reported and rightfully condemned. Today, while recognizing that the conflict has negative repercussions for everyone, my delegation would like to bring to the international community’s attention the devastating impact the conflict has on Syria’s Christian population, a population which in its various traditions has been present in the country for 2000 years. These days the Christian community faces numerous challenges for its very survival in the region.  On one side Christians face ideological extremist groups which seek to eradicate them from the region and on the other, continued insecurity for the families and their homes as they are left to fend for themselves.  The murder of the priest Fran├žois Murad is just one of the many heinous acts in a long series of kidnappings of Christians, including bishops and priests and the gruesome killings of innocent civilians. Christians have also witnessed over 60 of their churches and affiliated institutions destroyed. In many cases, they have had to seek ways and means in the midst of dangerous and life-threatening circumstances to safeguard their treasured sacred objects and priceless manuscripts and artifacts witnessing to their bi-millennial tradition and culture which constitutes a veritable world heritage of outstanding universal value for the whole of humanity. Madam President, These pertinent remarks are not indicative of any lack of concern on the part of the Holy See for the suffering that afflicts each and every Syrian citizen, regardless of religion or ethnicity. Rather, they are a fitting expression of the solicitude of the Holy See for the whole Christian family, and of what should be the serious apprehension of the entire world about the overlooked fate of so many thousands of victims, including Christians as well as other ethnic and religious minorities, who find themselves ruthlessly targeted in that conflict for no fault of their own, and now, caught in the cross-fire, are struggling for their very survival.  My delegation is convinced that there can be no social progress and no justice without according religious and ethnic minorities their rightful place as full members of society. Madam President, The persistent refusal from both sides in this conflict to engage in a meaningful political dialogue to build a reconciled Syria augurs only for more deaths, fear, hatred and destruction. As has been restated many times in this Chamber and in other international fora, there can be no military solution for the Syrian conflict! Regardless of this, parties to the conflict manifest determination, with total impunity, to shed yet more blood, to supply yet more weapons, and to destroy more lives before they can be brought to the negotiating table. War can never more be considered a means of resolving conflicts. Yet war, when it occurs, can only be won through peace; yes, peace won through negotiations, dialogue and reconciliation. It is my delegation’s hope, therefore, that the international community can find courage to reconcile its differences and show the needed political determination to pave the path to the much-awaited Second Geneva Conference, so as to help all parties to the conflict rediscover the indispensable path of dialogue with a view to reaching a concerted and negotiated solution.  “This dialogue also demands of the parties involved the ability to question themselves and to oppose effectively situations of injustice or domination that give rise to sentiments of hostility or hatred in peoples”[1]. My Delegation commends every effort towards this purpose and calls upon all parties with responsibility to desist from hindering the long overdue negotiated settlement to this conflict. Peace in Syria makes us all winners, whereas enduring conflict surely guarantees only losers. Thank you, Madam President. [1] John Paul II, Address to Ambassador Siba Nasses of Syria to the Holy See, 15 May 2003.