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Peace Sunday prayers needed for Syria ahead of summit, says Bishop
The Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury's urging people to use Peace Sunday to remember those caught up in the conflict in Syria.
The Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury's calling for prayers ahead of what he's labelled a 'vital' moment for peace in Syria. Next week it's hoped both sides of the conflict will come round the table for talks led by international leaders.
Rt Revd Mark Davies - the Bishop of Shrewsbury - wants people to use the upcoming Peace Sunday to remember all those killed, injured and displaced there. Latest figures from the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights suggest over 180,000 people have been killed in the fighting while the UN estimates two fifths of the entire population have now left their homes.
Hundreds of thousands more have become internally displaced since the conflict began in 2011, but millions more have fled to refugee camps neighbouring countries.
Bishop Mark told Premier's Marcus Jones on the News Hour that now is the time for peace:
The Geneva peace talks, which are due to take place in Switzerland, have been organised by the UN with the intention of bringing together the Syrian regime and the Syrian opposition groups to end the fighting and create a transitional government.
But there are concerns some of the opposition groups won't attend. The Syrian National Coalition - one of the larger bodies - has already said it plans to boycott. Syria's foreign minister has said Damascus is ready to offer a prisoner exchange with rebels. Speaking in Moscow, Walid Muallem also said he had presented a ceasefire plan for the second city Aleppo to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. The moves came as the opposition Syrian National Coalition meets in Istanbul to decide whether to go to next week's peace conference. Thirty countries have given their support to the talks which are due to begin on Wednesday with Russia and the US playing significant roles. US Secretary of State John Kerry is hopeful of getting a resolution.
"The Geneva peace conference is not the end, but rather the beginning.
"The launch of a process that is the best opportunity for the opposition to achieve the goals of the Syrian people and the revolution, and a political solution to this terrible conflict that has taken many, many, too many lives."
The talks have also been given the backing of the leader of Syrian Catholics. Patriarch Gregorios III is calling for every Catholic in the country to pray for an end to the hostilities.
"We long and pray for the peace to be Syrian though we are grateful to all those countries who are working for that Syrian peace.
"The [international community's] efforts should be concentrated on obtaining a peace that is really Syrian, for that would be true peace and the best and most suitable for all parties to the conflict and for all Syria."
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