An international conference on the future of Christians in the Middle East is an initiative launched by founder of the Sant'Egidio Community Andrea Riccardi, as a second step after the appeal last June for the salvation of Aleppo, the cradle city of the dialogue and coexistence between Christians and Muslims, now at the centre of the fierce war of Syria. The appointment - said Riccardi - is for 5-6 March 2015 in Cyprus, and "we request the participation of the Patriarchs and Heads of Catholic, Orthodox and Christian Churches in all the Middle East, of personalities of the Muslim world, of representatives of international politics and those governments that want to join". As far as is known, the initiative just launched, has already provoked the interest of a couple of major European governments.
"The situation of Christians in the Middle East is critical - said Riccardi -; and if the ancient mosaic of cultures and religions in Syria and Iraq dies, ancient civilizations, which do not exist anywhere else in the world and to which we owe so much in terms of civilization, will disappear altogether. The eventual flight of Christians from the Middle East would mean the loss of a piece of pluralism and democracy in the whole area because, after Christians, Muslims themselves, and the other components of a unique landscape which is good for all humanity, would be discriminated. Ancient Mesopotamia would quite die; it would be an ethnocide, that is, a cultural genocide, as well as a massacre".
During the press conference the hashtag #savealeppo was also launched, and Andrea Riccardi commented on the echo of the appeal launched on 22 June, which "in recent months has brought special attention to this great city and to all minorities”. "The signature campaign organised by the Community of Sant'Egidio has involved thousands of people around the world, two Nobel laureates, representatives of various governments including Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Lavrov and French Minister Fabius, a hundred Italian MPs and representatives of the European Parliament, the first of them President Martin Schultz, directors of international organisations like the Red Cross and UNESCO. On last 7 November, President of the Community of Sant'Egidio Marco Impagliazzo met Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-moon, who expressed his support for the initiative. Staffan De Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, took up the appeal requesting the creation of "free zones" in the area of Aleppo. "I appeal to the powers involved - said Riccardi – so that they act to save Aleppo, starting from the permanent members of the Security Council. I also appeal to Italy, Germany and the countries in the area, such as Turkey, which preserves the safety of the Mausoleum of Suleiman Sha east of the city. The United Nations can create a 'safe haven', a secure location, under its control, so even with the deployment of UN peacekeepers, if the powers involved in various capacities accept this form of conflict management. No one should take advantage of the 'freeze' militarily: on the other hand, the situation in Aleppo has been blocked for months, suspended by a thread. We do not want the thread to be broken".
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