Pope Francis has lodged an official — and personal — appeal for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to work toward ending the violence in the war-torn city of Aleppo.
For Francis — the leader of the Roman Catholic church and one of the most widely loved and respected figures in the world — the dire situation in Aleppo comes down to basic humanitarianism.
Fortunately, a temporary end to the violence in Aleppo may now be within sight.
Unfortunately, the damage has likely been done.
The pope’s penning of a personal letter to President al-Assad comes at a time when a cease-fire to the bloody fighting in Aleppo — to allow the few civilians remaining to escape — is seemingly finally underway.
Yesterday’s attempt at cease-fire in Aleppo, as was documented by the Inquisitr, did not fare quite so well.
In his letter, as documented by Reuters, the pope made an impassioned plea to President al-Assad to take a stand to end the widespread violence that has rocked Aleppo to its core, as well as to take an active role in helping condemn what Francis called “all forms of extremism and terrorism from whatever quarter they may come.”
Now, New York Times is reporting that as many as 1,000 people were evacuated from various rebel-stronghold districts in Aleppo, which al-Assad and his allies are regarding as a small victory for their troops.
“I want to confirm that what is happening today is history that is being written by every Syrian citizen,” said President al-Assad, per the Times.
Many believe that today’s truce for evacuations could be indicative of a major turning point — a coming together — between the various forces stationed in Aleppo.
It was, in fact, today that government buses and ambulances were able to cross into rebel strongholds in Aleppo in order to provide medical treatment and evacuation services. This evacuation, the New York Times noted, was conducted alongside Russian forces and the World Health Organization.
“[Today’s] writing did not start today,” continued al-Assad, in what could also be construed as a reference to Pope Francis’ correspondence. “It started about six years ago when the crisis and the war on Syria began.”
After more than six years of violence, however, most cannot envision Aleppo ever again serving as an industrial powerhouse for the war-torn country.
Of course, Aleppo’s slow descent into a civil war that has been so violent and bloody has been well documented.
As BBC reported the following back in May.
“More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in four-and-a-half years of armed conflict, which began with anti-government protests before escalating into a full-scale civil war. More than 11 million others have been forced from their homes as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule battle each other — as well as jihadist militants from so-called Islamic State.”
It has, after all, been a slow descent for Syria and Aleppo.
Pope Francis and the Vatican believe that President al-Assad is one of the few individuals involved in the situation who can “ensure that international humanitarian law is fully respected with regard to the protection of the civilians and access to humanitarian aid.”
The pope, who has made a number of public statements condemning Aleppo violence in the past, also noted that the ongoing war in Aleppo has “sorely tried” Syria’s civilian population.
That statement may be a huge understatement, as it is now widely believed that Aleppo has lost its status as the most populous of Syria’s cities in the aftermath of the violence.
According to Reuters, Francis’ correspondence with President al-Assad was handed to the leader of the war-torn country from one of the Vatican’s ambassadors in Damascus.
Damascus, which is the location where one of the Vatican’s ambassadors directly handed Pope Francis’ letter to al-Assad, may now be Syria’s most-populated area.
Following up on the evacuation, an anonymous Syrian general told Reuters that the army and its allies were now in the final stages of recapturing Aleppo from rebels.
The real question many continue to ask, however, is how much of Aleppo will be left after the final bomb is dropped.
As Pope Francis continues to make impassioned public pleas to Syrian officials to try their hardest to save Aleppo, many fear that the whole affair may now be a lost cause.
[Featured Image by Franco Origlia/Getty Images]