The situation in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, and Palestine, as we all are aware, is of global concern. The conflict in Syria appears on the surface to be a battle between those loyal to President Bashar Al-Assadand those who oppose him. The uprising against him began in March 2011 in Deraa, when several demonstrators were killed by security forces while protesting against the arrest of some teenagers who had painted revolutionary slogans on a school wall. This spread to nationwide protests in May, demanding the President’s resignation.
The death toll in Syria’s three-year conflict has climbed past 160,000, as per the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a harrowing figure that reflects the relentless bloodletting in a civil war that appears no closer to being resolved. The crisis has also uprooted some 6.5 million people from their homes, forced 2.7 million to flee the country, laid waste to cities and towns alike, and unleashed sectarian hatreds that have rippled across the region. (cf. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/syria-death-toll/)
The ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have taken a tremendous toll on the people of those countries. As of April 2014, at the very least, 174,000 civilians have been determined to have died violent deaths because of the wars. The actual number of deaths, direct and indirect, as a result of the wars is many times higher than this figure.
The decade long war in Afghanistan has continued to take lives with each passing year. As of February 2014, at least 21,000 civilians are estimated to have died violent deaths due to the war. The total number of civilians killed in Pakistan may be as high as or higher than the toll in Afghanistan, with NGO estimates ranging widely between 20,000 and 50,000 recorded deaths. In Iraq, over 70 percent of those who died of direct war violence have been civilians. Iraq Body Count conservatively estimates that at least 1,33,000 civilians have been killed in direct violence due to war between the invasion and early May 2014. In addition to the direct consequences of violence represented by these numbers, thousands more Iraqis, Afghans and Pakistanis are falling victim to the dangers of a battered infrastructure and poor health conditions arising from wars. In the case of Iraq, excess deaths indirectly resulting from the war add several times the 1,33,000 civilians killed directly by violence.
People have been killed in their homes at night and in markets and on roadways during the day. They have been killed by bombs, bullets and fire and by weapons such as improvised explosive devices (IED) and remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs or “drones”). Civilians die at checkpoints, as they are run off the road by military vehicles, when they step on a mine or a cluster bomb, as they try to collect wood or tend to their fields, and when they are kidnapped and executed for purposes of revenge or intimidation. They have been killed by the US and they have been killed by its allies and they have been killed by insurgents and sectarians in the civil wars spawned or fanned by the invasions and what followed. (cf.http://www.costsofwar.org/article/civilians-killed-and-wounded)
The Israeli assault on the Palestinians is another instance of the destruction of humanity. One can see on social media, pictures of terrified Palestinian children in Hebron and Hallul, sitting on the ruins of their homes; of mobs in the street chanting “death to Arabs” and pulling out Palestinian men from their stores to beat them as other Israelis stand idly by; of soldiers lining up at the Gaza border, ready
at a moment’s notice to invade. The toll of people killed and injured in Gaza is climbing day by day – all because of Israeli missiles. There is no end in sight.
It is in such circumstances, we call upon churches:
To agonize in prayer over the destruction of life and property, asking God to provide the needed graces to people who have been injured, bereaved, rendered homeless, hungry and destitute. Let us pray to God to strengthen the efforts of responsible and just peace makers.
To express our solidarity with the victims of war and terror. Let us write to churches and to people groups expressing our togetherness with them in their hour of suffering.
To campaign for justice in these violence torn lands. Let us through social media, through letters, posters and ecclesial statements articulate our concerns for justice. Let us write to the political powers that be to respond conscientiously and sensibly to the devastating situations so that violence would end and just-peace would prevail.
General Secretary, NCCI