April 20, 2015
MICHAEL SWAN
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

MONTREAL – Four years into Syria's civil war, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is petitioning Ottawa to work harder for peace in the region and to increase aid to the war's victims.

An online petition launched by CCODP calls on the federal government to provide more aid, make a diplomatic contribution to a peace plan and increase its efforts to choke off the money that keeps both the Assad regime and ISIS fighting.

The petition is available at devp.org/syria.

"There's a need to do all we can to find a political solution," said CCODP emergency programs officer Guy Des Aulniers.

In the four years since March 2011 pro-democracy protests were violently suppressed by police and the Syrian army, more than 200,000 Syrians, mostly civilians, have been killed.

11 MILLION HOMELESS

More than 11 million Syrians have been forced from their homes, with 3.5 million now living as refugees.

Islamic State fighters, the Assad regime army, Hezbollah and a long list of other militias are bombing the country back to the stone age.

Development and Peace has contributed money and other forms of support to Church and non-governmental organizations active inside Syria and in surrounding countries.

The organization's financial contribution over the four years is $13 million, including funds from the federal department of foreign affairs, trade and development.

But just pouring in money without working for a permanent peace doesn't make sense, said Des Aulniers.

As a G8 nation, he said, Canada has to lead by putting pressure on countries and others who are either supplying arms or buying oil from ISIS and the government in Damascus.

TALK WITH ASSAD

Criminal regime or not, it's time to talk to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, said Catholic Near East Welfare Association of Canada executive director Carl Hetu.

"Everybody agrees that if Assad falls it's going to be worse chaos," Hetu said.

"Assad, you can negotiate with him," he said. He knows his regime won't survive and the Muslim minority to which his family belongs will be slaughtered if he solve this."

What is needed is for the Syrian people to find a group that will negotiate on their behalf. "That's where the problem is."