- (Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah)
The World Evangelical Alliance said it is "extremely disappointed" that the major U.N. talks on the Syrian civil war failed to make any significant progress last week, and called on an immediate end to the violence as scores of people continue dying.
"We are extremely disappointed that very little progress was made in the recent peace talks. No one believed it was going to be easy to get agreement. We urge on all sides to return to the table on February 10 with the intention of ending the civil war," Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO and secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance, shared in an email with The Christian Post on Sunday.
The major Geneva II conference on the Syrian civil war that began on Jan. 22 and lasted for a week was hosted by the U.N., the U.S. and Russia, and sought to bring together representatives from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and some of the opposition forces looking to topple his administration.
According to reports from the conclusion of the first week of talks, however, there has been very little progress, and the Syrian delegation did not even confirm whether it will return for further peace talks.
"Progress is very slow indeed, but the sides have engaged in an acceptable manner," explained U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, according to Reuters.
The conflict in Syria, which has been increasingly violent since 2011, has left over 100,000 people dead and displaced over 9.3 million, according to U.N. estimates. Christian communities have also been targeted by Islamic rebels, who have burned down churches and sometimes entire towns, murdering dozens of followers of Christ.
"We are deeply concerned for the Christian community in Syria. Like all minority groups they need protection from the very real threats that have been made against them. In addition, it is imperative that as the future shape of Syria is being determined, Christians who have had a presence in the land for two thousand years be represented," Tunnicliffe said in a statement before the conference.
In his email to CP, the WEA head called for an end to hostilities in the war-torn Middle Eastern nation, as well as improved efforts to ensure safe delivery of humanitarian aid to the millions of Syrians in dire need.
"The current situation demands that as Christ followers we need to continue to pray to the Prince of Peace asking for His mercy," Tunnicliffe added.
Meanwhile, the high death toll in Syria continued rising over the weekend, with 90 people believed to have been killed following government air strikes on the city of Aleppo. Women and children were reported among the dead in neighborhoods where rebel groups have a stronghold.
"The humanitarian situation is very bad, there is a huge number of wounded people," a medical staffer at an Aleppo field hospital told CNN.
"I am so nervous because my staff inside [have] become so confused, I have to calm them, I don't know what I will have to do for tomorrow."
Humanitarian group Oxfam International noted in a phone interview with CP on Monday that although progress has indeed been slow, there still remains hope for significant breakthroughs when the Syria peace talks resume next week.
"In particular, we are still waiting to see some genuine progress on humanitarian assistance for Syrians inside the country who are still in need. But there has been some initial promising signs. We recognize, and everyone recognizes going in that progress toward achieving a political solution was certainly going to take some time," Oxfam Senior Policy Adviser Noah Gottschalk said.
Gottschalk added that Oxfam hopes Syria's civil society groups will also be allowed to speak at the U.N. conference and have their say.
"There are so many groups that are active on the ground inside Syria; there are women's groups, and all kind of other groups who are active and have a lot to say, and [they] represent real constituencies inside Syria. So far, a lot of them have not been represented (at the conference), despite flying in to Geneva at great personal risk and expense. They are looking to contribute, to play a role."