Photo from the GOPA-DERD, an ACT Alliance partner in Syria.

Photo from the GOPA-DERD, an ACT Alliance partner in Syria.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joins our partners in the Middle East in calling on the U.S. government to lift its sanctions on Syria so that a speedy and effective humanitarian response can be mounted immediately in response to the devastating earthquakes on Feb. 6. The earthquakes that rocked Southern Turkey and Northern Syria resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries and hundreds of destroyed buildings. In Northern Syria, already suffering from years of war and U.S.-imposed sanctions, the earthquake has had devastating effects. 

The sanctions, which have been in place for decades, only add misery to an already traumatized and impoverished population, particularly following the devastating civil war that began in 2011. This earthquake adds yet more misery to the people of Syria who in recent years have been slowly trying to rebuild their homes and their lives.

Map of the main magnitude 7.8 earthquake in central Turkey. From the US Geological Society.

Map of the main magnitude 7.8 earthquake in central Turkey. From the U.S. Geological Survey.

While the PC(USA) and other organizations working with partners in Syria can obtain humanitarian licenses for their humanitarian work in Syria, the effect of the sanctions slows down transfers of aid, often for months. Relief supplies intended for Syria’s frigid winter end up arriving in the high heat of summer. Syria is in the depths of winter, and many people are now homeless. With sleet, snow and freezing rain forecast, there is an immediate need for shelter, blankets and medical supplies to treat the injured. The few remaining hospitals are overrun with casualties. 

Lifting the sanctions will enable the aid that is required for the immediate emergency to flow smoothly and equip people to rebuild their homes and lives in the coming weeks and months. This would be the most compassionate action our government could take in response to this tragedy. We urge that the well-being and needs of the most vulnerable people in Syria and throughout the region — who have suffered so greatly — be at the center of our concern.

Stated Clerk Signature
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The Middle East Council of Churches released its own statement below:

After the Earthquake Which Hit the North of the Middle East

The Middle East Council of Churches Calls On the International Community for Emergency Aid and Urges for Lifting Sanctions on Syria to Allow the Access of All Materials

Following the devastating earthquake which hit the north of the Middle East region, the Presidents of the Middle East Council of Churches held an emergency meeting, today on Monday 6 February 2023, in the presence of His Beatitude Patriarch John X, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and MECC President for the Orthodox Family, represented by His Eminence Metropolitan Saba Esber, His Beatitude Patriarch Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian, Catholicos of the Armenian Catholic Church and MECC President for the Catholic Family, His Grace Anba Antonios, Metropolitan of Jerusalem and the Near East for the Coptic Orthodox Church and MECC President for the Eastern Orthodox Family, Reverend Dr. Paul Haidostian, President of the Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East, President of Haigazian University in Lebanon and MECC President for the Evangelical Family, alongside the MECC Secretary General Dr. Michel Abs.

During the meeting, the attendees discussed the current situation and how to respond to the earthquake’s repercussions. They mentioned that all the Churches in the Middle East have put their resources at the disposal of the affected and displaced people due to the earthquake, since the first moments of the disaster, despite their limited resources as a result of the blockade. They also announced the following:

1- We call on the international community and the international Ecumenical family to provide urgent emergency aid to the region, in coordination with the Middle East Council of Churches, the Churches and their affiliated institutions.

2- We urge the immediate lifting of sanctions on Syria and allowing access to all materials, so sanctions may not turn into a crime against humanity.

The Churches in the Middle East, which always supports their people, will spare no effort in doing all they can to relieve their pain and lead them towards prosperity and progress.

The Middle East Council of Churches

Learn more about the earthquake and efforts already in action by the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) and our partners at To support PDA's response, please designate gifts to DR999999.