A group of Syrians in Idlib are asking Pope Francis to talk about their dire situation when he receives Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Vatican on 4 July.
Russian forces are helping Syrian government forces bomb residential areas, hospitals, ambulances and schools in Idlib. The Syrian-Russian military campaign is aimed to defeat opposition groups in the province, but civilians thought to be supporting the opposition are targeted.
Syrians in Idlib are bringing their plight to Pope Francis’s attention in the hopes that he will address it with President Putin. They ask the pope to stress the importance of protecting civilians, civilian infrastructure and medical facilities. Russian forces play a critical role in the bombing attacks.
Syrians have been posing with Biblical texts such as “I was a stranger, and you invited me in” (Matthew 25:35) and “I was sick, and you looked after me” (Matthew 25:36) in an effort to get the pope’s attention. Another sign reads “Pope Francis, we have no more homes. They were all destroyed.”
Several hundred civilians have been killed and at least 300,000 have fled their homes since the escalation of attacks began in April. The entire population of Idlib, approximately 3 million people, are suffering from shortages of food, fuel and medicine. In the midst of this unprecedented humanitarian disaster, some Syrians see the meeting between Pope Francis and President Putin as a glimmer of hope.