A Roadmap for Peace in Syria by Mar Gregorios Yohanna Abraham Metropolitan of Aleppo

A Roadmap for Peace in Syria

Mar Gregorios Yohanna Abraham

Metropolitan of Aleppo

     Since mid-March 2011, my country Syria which is known to the world for its rich history, culture, healthy plurality and exemplary co-existence, is experiencing today unprecedented chaos. It all began with a peaceful protest movement and gradually escalated into multi-layered violence. The vulnerable majority has been devastated.

    A long standing and unacceptable malpractices by some Syrian officials, began in the 1980s. These unchecked malpractices led to wide spread corruption, which gradually spread and infested many departments of the state. Naturally, this caused deep anxiety amongst Syrian citizens. The yoke of persistent corruption generated discreet popular foment which eventually triggered the protest movement.

     The first spark was in reaction to arbitrary decisions taken by some security services. Syrian citizens thought a new wave of repression was dominating the thoughts and actions of some security services. The waves of changes were depicted as an “Arab Spring” which had a domino effect that swept through Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Syrians felt the breeze of the relative successes of those waves of changes. They thought the “Arab Spring” could be an effective tool to eradicate corruption, the plague of their society, hence the popular demonstrations.

    The first spark was ignited at Dara’a, a town on the Jordanian border leading to restlessness in cities in mainland Syria then moved to the coastal cities. The major outbreak of violence began in Hama, a city which had experienced uprisings and ugly unrest in the1980s. Soon the unrest moved to the ancient city of Homs [Emesa] in the heart of Syria. Here, murder on identify, assassinations, kidnappings, vandalizing, looting and setting on fire governmental buildings and public utility installations, were the order of the day. This violence and upheaval shattered the demographic fabric of the city and its ancient coexistence. Religious foment and forced displacements uprooted peaceful residents of the city. Homs became a ghost town; many quarters were deserted and fell into ruins. Inside those quarters, many religious houses of worship were ruined, especially seven old Christian churches. Thousands became homeless, many of whom are in urgent and desperate need of medical treatment and humanitarian relief which are still in short supply.

     After the twentieth of July, other cities in Syria were attacked, such as Aleppo where we spent days and nights worried about the uncertain future of the population.

      The protest movement created a state of anomaly in the Syrian society. A plethora of spine chilling scenarios started to be discussed openly in different political discourses including:

1 – Civil war of sectarian dimensions among people of one harmonious nation, who belonged to different religions, ethnicities, cultures and languages. They have lived for generations in one homeland called Syria.

2- UN Sanctions imposing a crippling international sanction under the auspices of the UN which harm the people more than the regime.

3- Military intervention under the Security Council cover in an attempt to put an end to the chaos and turmoil which prevail in Syria today.

4- Break up of the State: A nightmarish scenario which threatens the existence of the state by fragmenting it into many tiny entities. The different sectors of the Syrian society which comprise Christians, Muslims, Arabs and Kurds, who once co-existed in a pluralistic society, shared its resources and worked for the country’s progress and prosperity. They will be compartmentalized along their religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic lines.

     Furthermore, no one denies that this upheaval is the result of peoples’ ideas, perceptions and visions in accordance with their varied allegiances. However, all agree to maintain in a united Syria as a homeland for all. Furthermore, a universal common popular vision is the expansion of the margin of freedom and the enrichment of pluralistic cultures, religions, sects and creeds. They seek to enhance freedom of belief, choice, gain greater dignity, and establish the concept of citizenship. They demand more social justice, the rule of law, civil society, unity, and co-existence. They have agreed to work together and stand against those who want to propagate chaos and anarchy which undermine the bond of the national fabric and destroy the concept of national unity.

      Is there a solution to spare Syria further bloodshed? So far, the Syrian society has suffered in excess of 30.000 martyrs, including victims of the massacre of July 18, 2012. Clearly, no one is safe or immune from the spiraling violence.

     Is it possible that the solution to this socio-political crisis can come simultaneously from inside and outside Syria? A solution mutually accepted to all factions? A solution which could prove tenable, plausible and effective in addressing the root causes of the protest movement, activate the role of law, de-escalate the state of anxiety, and bring about security, safety and stability?

    So far, the most important endeavors to re-establish peace and stability in Syria is the international initiative of Mr. Kofi Annan. It has not yet attained the desirable level of success.  Annan’s initiative requires the implementation of the following: 

    First: To bring about a lasting cease-fire between the warring parties in Syria, and establish security and normality to the daily living of Syrians.

   Second: The needed humanitarian aid must be allowed to enter freely and swiftly, especially in areas that are currently beyond the reach of international aid organizations and agencies. The Red Cross and Red Crescent should be allowed to provide the desperately needed humanitarian assistance and relief for all those in need and in all areas. The scope of humanitarian need is vast.

    Third: Repatriate all displaced citizens who suffered forced, internal and external, immigration.

     Fourth: The warring factions must be brought to the negotiating table. Such negotiations should involve the entire Syrian spectrum; representatives of the opposition both in and out of Syria should be included. The main aim of such negotiations is to free Syria from the clutches of evil which is strangling the Syrian society.

     Hopefully, successful negotiations could lead to a new formula to secure the return of peace and stability to Syria. It may be a National Council at home with full representation of the full spectrum of the Syrian mosaic. Such a Council will lead Syria to the next phase. The success of such an important national initiative of reconciliation will hopefully bring accord among belligerent factions in Syria.

      Such a National Council should be charged with following priorities.

1. Development of constitutional principles to ensure equal rights for all citizens.

2. Formulation of future Syrian internal and external policies.

3. Address the undesirable outcomes of the crisis, such as: the divisions of the army and restoration of its unity.

4. Establish a code of conduct for the Syrian security services to insure that mistakes of the past will not be repeated.

5. Most important of all is the restoration of confidence and mutual respect among all citizens.

      The National Council should be accountable to a national unity government that embraces all parties, including the opposition both inside and outside Syria.

      The most important tasks of this government should be to:

1. Ensure free and fair elections for the new parliament.

2. Establish a professional commission able to develop a modern and permanent constitution, to ensure the elimination of the concept of hegemony of individuals, political or religious parties, a norm experienced in many Arab countries.

3. Establish a new law of parties to regulate their participation in the political life of a new Syria.

4. Arrange for the election of a new president under the new constitution; a leader who can uphold the interests of Syria, and return it to safe, secure, stable, peaceful and democratic state.

      Lastly, an appeal from all honest and noble citizens of Syria to peace-lovers everywhere, and especially in our gathering here at Mt Hiei, to help stop the blood-shed in Syria, and to be part of bringing peace, prosperity, dignity and comfort to the country and its people.


Japan, Kyoto 3 August 2012


Mar Gregorios Yohanna Abraham

Metropolitan of Aleppo