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Syria: the international peace conference

Christian Aid and Tearfund release statements ahead of Wednesday's talks

Only an inclusive political settlement will end the violence and enable the people of Syria to rebuild their lives.

That’s the message from Christian Aid ahead of this week’s international peace conference in Geneva, which is looking to find a solution to the Syrian crisis that has left 100,000 people dead and driven 9.5 million from their homes.

Delegates from Syria’s government and opposition along with representatives from 30 countries, including the UK, will come to the table on Wednesday (22 January).

Two months ahead of the third anniversary of the start of the crisis, these are the first direct talks between both sides in the conflict. 

Christian Aid says it is essential that civil society is also represented at the talks. Christian Aid’s Head of Middle East Janet Symes said, ‘Only an inclusive political settlement will bring the violence to an end and enable the people of Syria to rebuild their lives.

‘Civil society has a crucial role to play in supporting non-violence within the process. It is essential that appropriate mechanisms allow them to engage fully, and represent a broader number of Syrians.’

She added, ‘There are many grassroots initiatives for peace and reconciliation already taking place, including inter-faith dialogue, and locally negotiated short-term ceasefires that demonstrate the commitment of so many Syrians to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

‘A broader engagement that goes beyond the main political actors to include local people committed to non-violence including women, faith leaders, and representatives of refugees and internally displaced populations will be an essential part of creating a lasting peace.’

Elsewhere a report from Tearfund warned that refugees outside formal refugee camps are in danger of being overlooked.

Up to three-quarters of the 2.3 million refugees who have fled Syria are living in sheds, overcrowded flats or makeshift tents, not in large formal camps. Tearfund reports that these families, often with young children or elderly relatives, are often sick because their living conditions are poor and they find it difficult to get medical help.

‘Life is incredibly difficult for the Syrian refugees we are serving in Lebanon and Jordan,’ says Justine Nola, Tearfund’s Syria Crisis Manager.

‘In Lebanon, for example, there aren't any formal organised camps so one of our biggest tasks is to find the people who are struggling.  People from our local partner organisations go from door to door looking for those who might need help, and they often come across groups of a few families living together in very crowded, make-shift conditions, sometimes without running water or electricity.

‘We have even found families with small children living in a shed built for chickens because they had nowhere else to go.’

She also called for prayer for the millions of Syrians trying to bring up their children or care for elderly relatives in Lebanon, Jordan and many other countries, and for peace to come to Syria:

'Please pray with us that this week's peace talks bring an end to the devastating conflict, bombings, fear and violence that have plagued the lives of so many millions of Syrian people.'

Baptist Times, 21/01/2014
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