Revd Andrew Ashdown to ST: MSM Refusal to Report on Syrians' Suffering at Hands of Terrorists "Shocking and Disgraceful"

British Anglican priest has stressed that the views of most people in England towards Syria have been formed by the painfully one-sided mainstream western media that has largely depended on sources from amongst 'opposition' terrorist groups, asserting that political rhetoric of the UK government towards Syria has 'softened' in recent weeks, but the overwhelming policy appears to remain the same.

 Revd Andrew Ashdown, who has visited Syria for Several times before and after the crisis, told that Syriatimes e-newspaper that most people in England have been misled by the western mainstream media, which follows the political agendas of the political establishment.

  “The media's primary sources are from terrorist controlled areas, and their supporters in the West.  Most people have no idea about the constant terrorist attacks in towns and cities in Syria (because of the media not reporting them).  I believe that the bias and lack of journalistic professionalism in our media, and their refusal to report on the suffering of the majority of Syrians at the hands of the terrorists (that our government supports), is shocking and disgraceful,” He added.

 The Church of England priest also talked about the difficulty of swaying public opinion in his country, affirming that there has been profound misrepresentation of realities on the ground, and this is all that most people see.

 “The mainstream narrative is so strong and vitriolic against Syria that people don't know what to think.  Also, those of us who do challenge the mainstream narrative are deeply criticized and attacked, and so it can be quite risky to personal reputation to stand with Syria.”

 "So, I have tried, in the past few years, to enable people of influence plus ordinary people from different walks of life to visit Syria for themselves and to see the realities."

“I give talks around the country, people are very open to hearing the truth, and it is clear that not everyone wholeheartedly believes our media. When I, or others who have been to Syria speak, people's eyes are opened, and they can see that they have been misled. This is particularly true of people who know the Middle East.”

 Everyone who comes and speaks with people across all sections of society have their understanding of the situation transformed.

 Moreover, Ashdown underscored that the UK Government has been consistent in its criticism of Syria; its support for 'rebel' [ terrorist] factions, and its desire for 'regime' change.

 “We wish that the British Government would change its policy towards Syria and support the country in finding a peaceful solution, and beginning the road to recovery, according to the wishes and needs of the people of Syria,” he added, indicating that the political rhetoric of the UK government has softened in recent weeks, as the situation on the ground in Syria has changed, but the overwhelming policy appears to remain the same.

 Last week, the priest arrived to Syria with a group of members of the House of Lords in the British Parliament, and Clergy from England, at the invitation of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate. They had met with several Syrian officials and hundreds of people from all walks of life and communities.

 The goals of the visit of the group, which came here as individuals, are to meet with a cross-section of people in Syria, to see and learn about the realities of the situation in Syria for ourselves, to hear from Syrians themselves what are their hopes and needs for the future, and to convey back to England and the British Government what are the truths and realities in the country.

 Syrian people’s messages to UK

 “We will convey the messages that we have heard loud and clear from everyone we have met in Syria:  that the criminal sanctions which are causing so much suffering to Syria's people must be ended; that the west must stop supporting terrorism, which is only prolonging the war, and causing endless suffering to everyone; and that the Syrian people must be enabled to decide their own future without any external political agendas or conditions, so that the country can recover, maintain and preserve its plurality and diversity, as a place of faith, culture and civilization  We shall also tell of the amount of love, hospitality and welcome that we have experienced, and the faith, courage, resilience and determination of the Syrian people, the vast majority of whom have great pride in their country, their Army and their President.”

 Since April 2014, Ashdown has visited Syria nine times and was one of the first foreigners to enter the Old City of Aleppo and areas of East Aleppo, hours after they were liberated by the Syrian Army.

 War in Syria is dying down

 “In May I returned to Aleppo, and am heartened and inspired by the signs of life and recovery in the city,” the priest said, adding: “My three visits this year - in May, September and November, have been really encouraging.  It is clear that the war is dying down, and is being won by the brave Syrian Army, with the help of Russia.  It is inspiring to see life coming back to areas that have been devastated in the conflict, and to see how quickly the Syrian Government, agencies, faith communities and individuals are trying to rebuild, restore, and improve infrastructure, with a special emphasis on the physical and material needs of people who have lost everything.  This is a great source of hope.  Most of all, I am deeply impressed by the courage, the perseverance, the faith and the diligence of the Syrian people, and although it will take much time to heal the wounds- both physical and human - that the conflict has caused for every person, I believe Syrians have the resilience to do so, and will rebuild their country and make it great again.”

 He concluded by saying: “I am honoured by the welcome we have received, and am deeply touched by spirit of the Syrian people.  We will continue to do all we can to convey the realities of Syria back to England, and hope that we will be able to begin to change public opinion - and political policy, and encourage people to support Syria in its rebuilding of it heritage, and of the hearts and souls and lives of her people.”

 Interviewed by: Basma Qaddour