By Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate*
30 November 2015 – TRANSCEND Media Service – International Peace Delegation to Syria 24-30 November 2015
Our delegation has just spent five days with the people of Syria visiting the cities of Damascus, Homs, Tartus, Qara and Ma’alula.
We have been deeply moved by the kindness and warmth of the Syrian people whom we have had the privilege and joy of meeting.
Although they have suffered unimaginable violence, they have inspired us by their vision of a peaceful Syria and deep commitments to solutions in their country.
These are the findings of our delegation, consisting of eleven peace and human rights advocates from six countries. Over the course of five days, we met with internally displaced persons, refugees, affected communities, religious leaders, combatants, government representatives and many others in Syria.
We call on the international community to protect the territorial integrity of Syria and to respect the fundamental rights of Syria as a sovereign State.
We deplore any intent to breach the integrity of Syria’s frontiers or to damage the unity and rich diversity of the Syrian people.
We recognize the legitimacy of the aspirations of the Syrian citizens for change, reforms and an end to all violence and we support those working for the implementation of a democratic life that respects and protects the fundamental rights of all citizens and we believe that effective and lasting reforms can only be achieved through non-violent means.
Our primary appeal is that all countries stop their interference in Syrian affairs, more specifically, that they halt the supply of arms and foreign combatants.
If foreign countries agree to stop the influx of arms and fighters, we are confident that Syrians can find their own solutions to their problems and achieve reconciliation.
We consider it beyond debate that the Syrian people have the right to determine their own government and their own future.
Foreign interference is currently preventing the Syrian people from exercising their right to self-determination.
We are concerned that such pernicious intervention is tearing apart the fabric of the country itself, with long-term consequences that can only be imagined.
The cautionary examples of Iraq, Lybia, Yemen and other countries serve to remind us of the dire consequences of such international folly.
This humanitarian crisis is already spilling into neighboring countries. A collapse of Syrian society will destabilize the entire region.
We appeal to the international community that it can learn from history and make better choices in the case of Syria that will spare further tragedy for the courageous Syrian people.
Secondly we appeal to the international media to stop the flow of misinformation regarding the Syrian conflict. We believe that every Syrian should be given the right to be heard and we do not see this reflected in the international coverage of this crisis.
Thirdly, we urge the international community to review and reconsider the crippling sanctions that are taking such a heavy toll on Syrian people.
Fourthly, we urge the international community to take seriously the vast numbers of refugees and persons who have been internally displaced by this conflict.
We appeal to the entire religious community to call the faithful to nonviolence and peacemaking, and to reject all forms of violence and discrimination, and we express our admiration and respect for the many Syrian religious leaders who have refused to endorse the use of violence and have dedicated their lives to working for a peaceful solution to this conflict.
We pay tribute to the Patriarch Gregorios III Laham and Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun for their inspirational work for peace and reconciliation for Syria and the Patriarch Gregorios III Laham for his kind invitation to our delegation.
Our delegation would like to express to Mother Agnes Mariam and Sheik Sharif Martini our deep gratitude and appreciation for all their commitment to peace and reconciliation in beloved Syria.
As we leave Syria we are filled with hope that the Syrian people will have peace and so be a light of hope to the world.
Signed: Mairead Maguire
In the name of the International Delegation to Syria
*Mairead Corrigan Maguire, co-founder of Peace People, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. She won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland.
Her book The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from www.wipfandstock.com.
She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See: www.peacepeople.com.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS): TRANSCEND Media Service – TMS: International Peace Delegation to Syria 24-30 Nov. 2015