The United States and Russia reached an agreement over a new Syrian ceasefire, which went into effect an hour ago. An end to violence is the number one priority of Christians and other religious minorities in Syria, especially those living in the city of Aleppo, where both the government and opposition occupied sectors of the city are subject to daily bombardment. And a ceasefire is the first step in building a post-conflict Syria. We pray for its success.
It is easy to predict the failure of this latest ceasefire: so many have failed in the past. We are concerned that Russia’s influence over the Assad regime is much greater than America’s influence over the opposition. We hope both can persuade their respective allies that an end to the violence is in everyone’s interests.
Also of concern is the stated purpose of the ceasefire: after an initial seven days of peace and the urgent delivery of humanitarian supplies, Russia and the US will conduct joint strikes on the most extreme elements of the opposition, the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and the Islamic State. But the defeat of one or both of these organizations is not reason to declare “mission accomplished.” The moral obligation of both the United States and Russia is shepherding Syria into a new political reality in which Christians can live in peace as equal citizens. If the US withdraws from its involvement in Syria because the Islamic State is eradicated, the future of Christians in Syria will be dire.
In coming to this agreement, Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov succeeded where presidents Obama and Putin failed. We applaud their efforts, and note once again, blessed are the peacemakers.