To draw policymakers’ attention to the fact that children are the first victims of war, Aid to the Church in Need together with the Polish embassy to the Holy See, held a conference on Monday, December 3 for the diplomatic corps accredited to Vatican. The conference featured expert witnesses to the situation on the ground including the emergency relief and rebuilding efforts. The conference highlight was a Skype link bridging a representative group of Christian children in Aleppo, Syria, offering songs and prayers for peace and a candle lighting ceremony in union with the ambassadors in the heart of Europe.
“After almost 8 years of conflict in Syria, the consequences are indescribable, above all for the little children. Through our campaign we want to raise awareness of the critical conditions into which the country has been plunged and pray for peace and reconciliation.”- said Philipp Ozores, the Secretary General of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation ACN International, who yesterday presented the charity’s campaign Candles for Peace in Syria at the Polish embassy to the Holy See in Rome. ACN Syria campaign aiming at awareness raising, was formally launched by Pope Francis the day before. In the days leading up to the event over 50,000 children of different religions, from a number of different Syrian cities, had painted images and symbols of peace on the side of their candles. ACN is calling on people of good will around the world to respond to this heartfelt cry for peace from the children of Syria, by lighting a candle, as Pope Francis did after the Angelus prayer in Rome on Sunday.
The presentation at the Polish Embassy was attended by many of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. “We need the support of national governments”, Mr Ozores told them, adding, “For there to be peace in Syria we need concrete actions.”
The Polish ambassador to the Holy See, Mr Janusz Kotański stated: “Yesterday, the Holy Father Francis, has lit the first candle, we want to light them as many as needed to light up the darkness that prevails in Syria, in Iraq and in all places where Christians are persecuted and suffer because of Christ.” Ambassador Kotański also said that especially Poles will remember them and he expressed his certitude that helping Christians in the Middle East is and will be the priority for the Polish government. “Those who suffer will not be left alone. If I forget you, o Jerusalem, you, God in heaven, forget about me (ref. Psalm 137). We can never forget those suffering children, the suffering Christians who are this living Jerusalem of our times.” – summed-up Polish ambassador, before giving the floor to the invited guests – witnesses coming from Syria with the first-hand experience of the situation.
Cardinal Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio in Damascus, described the civil war in Syria as a “slaughter of the innocents” in which many children had been “killed by bombs, drowned in the ocean, suffocated by poison gas, mutilated, traumatised, subjected to sexual abuse, forcibly enlisted in the Army or else – as has happened to many young Syrian girls – forced to “marry” total strangers at an extremely tender age”.