Suffolk bishop expresses doubts about further military action in Syria

The Rt Revd Mike Harrison, Bishop of Dunwich. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

The Rt Revd Mike Harrison, Bishop of Dunwich. Picture: PHIL MORLEY - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk bishop has questioned the UK’s recent military intervention in Syria, in a passionate statement that criticises hostile attitudes towards refugees.

Dr Fayez Ayache said he was desperate for the world's powers to find a peaceful solution in war-torn

Dr Fayez Ayache said he was desperate for the world's powers to find a peaceful solution in war-torn Syria. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

The Rt Revd Dr Mike Harrison, Bishop of Dunwich, said it was imperitave we seek to protect weak and vulnerable civilians, but doubted the effectiveness of dropping more bombs.

His sentiments were echoed by Suffolk GP Dr Fayez Ayache, from Constable Country Medical Practice East Bergholt, who left Syria to become a doctor in 1973.

Dr Ayache said a diplomatic conversation was the only feasible route to peace, as “killing is going to lead to more killing”.

The news comes shortly after Theresa May defended the UK’s decision to commit to coalition air strikes in Syria without parliamentary approval.

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In his statement, Mr Harrison said: “It is hard to see what will be gained by escalating the bombing campaign in Syria.

“Eight years of fighting by Syrian, Russian, Israeli, Iranian, US, Turkish, Kurdish and ISIS forces has proven that military solutions simply lead to utter destruction.

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“Never mind the consequences of previous interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere.

“The joint US, UK, and French strike on the chemical manufacturing sites has been described as ‘drawing a red line’ beyond which, if the Assad regime continues to go, there will be further military action, to deter the use of chemical weapons and protect the civilians of Syria. It is not however clear that this kind of action will have any long-term effectiveness in alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people.”

Dr Ayache spoke emotionally about the destruction in his home country – and stressed that the West had a responsibility to help repair the lives torn apart by the brutal 7-year war.

“The people have had enough,” he said.

“When you see kids taken out from underneath collapsed buildings and housing, it does hurt.

“You cannot solve any conflict without talking. The Syrians cannot resolve it themselves – there is too much blood on the ground. They need some constructive and consistent help.

“Hope does not come by itself. To get the peace you are looking for, you have to do something about it.”

Dr Ayache also resonated with Mr Harrison’s complaint about the hypocrisy of certain world powers – such as the USA – for criticising Assad’s regime while continuing to shun refugees at its own borders.

He said that Syrian refugees were some of the hardest-working people he knew.

“They don’t sit down and wait for money,” he said. “They work.”

“My belief is, if we stop the war there, they will go back. Who wants to leave his county? Nobody wants to do that – it doesn’t matter how poor or wealthy. They would rather stay where they are and live in peace.”

Dr Ayache added that he missed his own family in Damascus, where years of fighting have resulted in widespread devastation.

“I miss it. You will not forget your first home,” he said. “That is where I was born, that is my family, that is my roots.

“I lived in Syria all my life. [My family] used to go every year once or twice, and we haven’t been since a few weeks before the start of the war. My daughter has had a child – and now they want to see their family.”

Mr Harrison contemplated three possible solutions: an escalating military campaign, a diplomatic solution, and a combination of the two. However he admitted the answer was not simple – and pleaded compassion as a priority.

He said: “It is not straightforward to judge between these options and the rights and wrongs of each and their practicalities are and will be hotly debated.

“What is imperative from a Christian and indeed humanitarian perspective is that whichever path is taken, it is the swiftest path to further protect the vast proportion of the population which is civilian and who simply want the bombing to stop, especially the weak, the vulnerable, the young and the old.”

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