Malcolm Fraser joins religious leaders in urging restraint in Syria

A US strike against Syria could spark a world war, Australian religious and political leaders, including archbishops and former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, have said in a joint statement urging restraint.

Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Buddhist leaders plus secular leaders have signed the statement by Australians for Reconciliation in Syria saying a US strike would be "an extreme escalation" of the conflict.

"Military escalation in Syria cannot defuse the crisis, limit the casualties of war or produce peace. Instead, some believe it can lead to a world war," the statement says.

They say it is not yet clear who launched the chemical attack in Damascus on August 21, and that in the past eight years all of the leaders of the Coalition of the Willing have conceded they entered the Iraq war based on false information.

The 34 signatories include Melbourne's Catholic and Anglican archbishops, Denis Hart and Philip Freier, Sheikh Riad Galli, the president of the Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia, Coptic Bishop Suriel, Greek Orthodox Bishop Ezekiel, barrister Julian Burnside, the National and Victorian Councils of Churches, the Victorian Buddhist Council, State Labor MP Bronwyn Halfpenny and Joseph Wakim, founder of the Australian Arabic Council.

"We urge governments and the media to listen to the voices of all Syrians, particularly those who are working for a peaceful solution and who reject violence," the statement says.

"As politicians in Australia debate whether to support the stand of President Obama on Syria, we draw attention to a comment by the Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo, the president of [Catholic aid agency] Caritas in Syria: 'If there is an armed intervention, that would mean, I believe, a world war'."

The story Malcolm Fraser joins religious leaders in urging restraint in Syria first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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