People, churches and sanctions in Syria

2020. 11. 17.

International sanctions against Syria often hamper the humanitarian efforts of local churches. This is exacerbating the suffering of Syrian people. In the midst of the pandemic, it is an urgent task to break down the barriers to humanitarian aid”, emphasized György Hölvényi MEP (Fidesz-KDNP, Hungary) at the online conference of EPP Group’s Working Group on Intercultural and Religious Dialogue. During the event, initiated by the Hungarian co-chair of the Working Group, Religious representatives from Syria, leaders of international faith-based humanitarian organisations and EU decision-makers provided an up-to-date report on the situation of Syrian citizens and the humanitarian consequences of sanctions against Syria.

Recalling his fact-finding missions in Syria, Hölvényi reminded: after nine years of Syrian war, millions of children and young adults require educational support; approximately 15 million people lack access to clean drinking water and adequate health care. Of course, the COVID-crisis just deepens the unmeasurable suffering, also increasing tendencies of mass migration, the Hungarian MEP underlined. In order to alleviate the crisis, it is necessary to facilitate the work of religious humanitarian organizations with significant capacities, hampered by current sanction regimes, he added.

Representative of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch from Aleppo, Archimandrite Moses Alkhassi reported that the churches help both the Christian and Muslim needy. At the same time, sanctions have led to significant inflation and a widening black economy in the country, among other things, making it difficult for them to obtain and deliver food and medicine to those in need.

Thomas Heine-Geldern, Executive President of Aid to the Church in Need International confirmed that aid was made impossible by the blockade of the financial system and by administrative barriers to trade. The director said the 1.5 million Syrian refugees currently in Lebanon will not be able to return home until aid programs are forced to pause. All this will have serious consequences for Europe and EU policies as well, he underlined.

György Hölvényi concluded by recalling that faith-based organizations do irreplaceable work in ensuring that effective aid is provided to civilians broken and crippled by war. Sanctions against the Syrian regime, which is responsible for hundreds of thousands of victims and millions of suffering citizens, should not set back this vital humanitarian activity, the Christian Democrat MEP underlined.