Australian Air Strikes Over Syria will Increase Misery & Dislocation of Innocent Civilians

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
8 Sep 2015

Father Claude Mostowik msc President of Pax Christi Australia

The Australian branch of the Catholic global peace movement, Pax Christi has called on the Government to give much-needed financial aid and support to programs providing food and medical supplies to civilians in Syria instead of extending Australia's air war against the Islamic State into Syria. Pax Christi also wants the Australian Government to contact those who are working on non-violent solutions for a free, democratic and secular society in Syria.

But above all, delegates at Pax Christi's biennial conference in Melbourne last week, have called on Australia to open its doors and its heart to many more refugees from Syria and the Middle East.

Pax Christi's calls for Australia to accept thousands of the desperate Syrian refugees now pouring into Europe or living hand to mouth in refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan have joined those of the Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, the Jesuit Refugee Service, the Refugee Council of Australia, church groups from a wide range of Christian denominations, and leaders of other faiths.

State and Federal politicians from both the Coalition and Opposition have also called for an increase in Australia's humanitarian refugee quota which accepts 13,500 for resettlement each year.

"This is the biggest humanitarian refugee crisis the world has seen since World War II," says the President of Pax Christi Australia, Father Claude Mostowik msc. "But it is not a European crisis. This is a global issue and Australia as one of the world's wealthiest countries must act. These people need immediate help and they need it now."

Last night candlelight vigils were held by thousands of Australians in Sydney, Melbourne and other capital cities calling on the Government to accept thousands more refugees from war torn Syria. Many ordinary men and women across the country have mobilised in a bid to help Syria's refugees after seeing the terrible and heartbreaking photograph of three-year-old Ayan Kurdi, the Syrian child whose small body was washed up on a Turkish beach.

Expanding bombing of IS targets in Syria will lead to more deaths, more refugees and more misery warns Pax Christi

From the Kurdish north of Syria, the toddler along with his-five year old brother and mother drowned at sea in their bid to find safety and a future.

The photography of the child's tiny body at the water's edge has become an iconic symbol of the Syrian tragedy and plight of the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

"But unless we act immediately and actually do something to help these people, the disturbing image of the drowned child simply becomes 'emotional voyeurism,'" Fr Mostowik says.

Pax Christi has also voiced its strong opposition to the Australian Government's reported intention to bomb Islamic State targets within Syria.

"Any bombing in Syria by Australia will only add to the terrible death toll and lead to further suffering and dislocation of innocent people," warns Fr Mostowik.

"The result of further intervention by Australia in Syria, will not only be an increase in the flood of desperate refugees leaving their homeland in search of safety, but will also make Australia less safe while doing nothing to help solve the conflicts in Syria, Iran or the Middle East," he says.

"Rather than 'Stop the Boats' our mantra should be 'Stop the Bombing," he says.

Fr Mostowik believes a decision by the Australian Government to extend air strikes and RAAF bombing missions into Syria will lead to more deaths on the ground, more destruction and lead to many thousands more terrified Syrians forced to flee their homeland.

In response to an official request from the United States, the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Defence Minister Kevin Andrews have signalled that they are likely to agree to the request and will allow the six RAAF Hornet bombers currently carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq, to expand their mission and carry out bombing missions on IS targets in Syria as well.

Islamic State jihadists continue to terrorise Syria's Christians, destroying entire villages, burning churches and committing atrocities

The Australian Government however has no plans to increase Hornet aircraft and personnel in the region from the current six RAAF aircraft involved in Iraq air strikes. For this reason many believe the airstrikes by Australia in Syria will do little to stop IS and its bloody rampage across the region.

"But in all probability the bombing missions will add to the already terrible death toll in Syria and to further suffering and dislocation of innocent men, women and children," Fr Mostowik says.

In an unanimous resolution at the Pax Christi's conference, which was attended by delegates from across Australia and New Zealand, there were urgent calls for the Government to halt its reported intention to expand Australia's bombing mission in Iraq to include Syria.

Pax Christi has also warned that an expansion into Syria by Australian strike bombers could lead to an increased sense of victimhood that will appeal to many idealistic young people in Australia to support Islamic State and join its ruthless militias.