“The problem of Syria is not simply an issue between the regime and the opposition, but has expanded up to including several factions, economic interests, and international plots. There is also an interfaith problem within Islam itself, between Shiites and Sunnis. ” These words belong to Father Firas Lutfi, Superior of the Holy Land College and assistant pastor of St. Francis Parish in Aleppo, interviewed by Luca Collodi.
Msgr. Lufti, what is the real situation on the ground in Aleppo? Reading the international press, one gets the impression that the situation is described in accordance with the political convenience of one or the other party involved in the conflict…
Each team has its own point of view, a reading, which for better or for worse, cannot embrace everything. For those who live in that territory, like us, controlled by Syrian army forces, sees any attack by the other party as an invasion. If information is transmitted from the other side, it is seen as an attempt to liberate and conquer the city for the sake of the jihadists. According to the context, I would say this: the powerful are carrying lead a bad war for bad economic, political, and geopolitical interests; those who pay the price are the innocent on both sides, especially children and women. The death toll of this war has reached around 380 thousand people and half of them are women and children. Authentic information is rooted in the real world, actual experience, authentic and direct contact with those who suffer. Those who stayed in Aleppo are really the poorest. The richest left the city – I would even say the entire country – in the very first months of the conflict and went away. Around us, there are only the poor and the poorest among the poor.
Can the alliance between Russia, Iran, and Turkey solve the situation in Aleppo and Syria?
You see, these tens of thousands of jihadists, who come from all over the world and belong to more than 40 nationalities, came from the Turkish border, all of them, and they were provided with weapons. We hoped that Turkey would have taken measures against these jihadists and that it would have shut the borders, at least, not to allow all of them to cross it. We received in a positive way the news about Russia and Iran that can convince Turkey to take the right measures. Enough of these jihadists who cross the border armed, financed to fight in Syria, certainly not to bring democracy or freedom of conscience there.
Of course, this is not a religious war…
The big issue are the economic and political interests of the regional forces, but also the entire world. At this point, the problem of Syria is not merely an issue between the regime and the opposition; it has expanded up to involving a number of factions, interests, and plots. There is also an inter-religious problem within Islam itself, between the Shiites and Sunnis. Hence, there also this struggle between those who would like to be the masters of the Islamic world and take the so-called final command in their hands to lead and guide all Islam. But the underlying war is another. The real war is the one of interests, economy, and weapons that are sold and bought.
Father Lufti, who uses chemical weapons in Syria?
According to what they tell us, they were used a few years ago. The problem lies in verifying who has used them. The question is very delicate. With it, we enter the field of misinformation and news manipulation. There are people behind this information or disinformation who want to accuse the Syrian government and its institutions before the whole world, both to facilitate an intervention, that is, to trigger or potentiate a military intervention under the aegis of the United Nations; a complete destabilization: chaos. Instead, it seems – actually it does not seem, I have the certainty, I am sure about it – that praying with great faith, the Catholics, the Orthodox, and many Muslims of good will have already shunned in the past, thanks to the Pope, an intervention that might have been truly catastrophic and tragic.
There is room for an appeal to peace?
From a human point of view, people, people who live in Aleppo, in Syria, are truly desperate, because in the past they have heard nothing but promises or have seen failed, aborted attempts. From the point of view of the Christian faith, we cannot despair: we must always open our heart, mind, look up, and invoke the gift of peace, which can only come from God. As Christians, Franciscans in the Holy Land, who live and work in Aleppo, we want peace with all of our hearts. But we do not wait passively, hoping that happens. No, we are also agents of peace: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” We are doing so in thousands of ways. Even my presence at the Meeting in Rimini is a way to tell about the suffering of innocent people; it is a way to involve many people of good will. My appeal for peace addresses all the people of good will, to everyone’s conscience. One can never be ignorant in front of Syria’s terrible tragedy; no one can say, considering the television news and the media, that he does not know what is really going on in Syria.