Idlib: Has the world stopped caring about Syria?

We challenge a UN official on the international response to the Idlib crisis and discuss evangelical support for Trump.

In this episode of UpFront, we ask the United Nation’s deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis why the world is ignoring the plight of millions of civilians trapped in Idlib province.

And in a special interview with Reverend William Barber, we discuss why Donald Trump has so much support among white evangelical voters in the US.

Idlib: ‘A crisis on a monumental scale’

In the past three months, nearly one million people have fled advancing Syrian government forces in Idlib province near the border with Turkey. With Ankara refusing to open border crossings and millions of civilians trapped, the United Nations has warned of an impending bloodbath and a “massacre on a scale that has never been seen during this entire war”.

Mark Cutts, the UN’s deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, called it a “crisis on a monumental scale”.

Women and children are seeking shelter in caves and freezing to death while hospitals, bakeries and schools have been bombed.

Acknowledging that war crimes have been committed by “all sides”, Cutts points out that “the majority of the civilian deaths and injuries in the Idlib area have been caused by airstrikes and shelling carried out by Syrian government forces and their allies”.

“We know this very well and we’ve been calling on all of them repeatedly”, Cutts added.

He urged the international community to work towards a political solution to the humanitarian crisis and called upon people around the world to pressure their governments to act.

With the conflict entering its tenth year, Cutts admitted that getting the public’s attention has been a challenge.

“There’s a lot of fatigue when it comes to Syria because they’ve seen so many battles and so much displacement … But just at the time when we thought we’d seen the worst of this war, when we thought the war might be coming to an end, what we’ve seen is one of the worst catastrophes of the entire war”. Cutts said.

“This is not the time for people to be taking their eye off Syria,” he added.

Trump and religion: ‘A battle of heresy versus Christian truth’

In the midst of the 2020 US presidential race, President Donald Trump continues to enjoy overwhelming support from white evangelical Christian voters, with a recent poll finding 75 percent approve of the president.

While Trump claims that “no president has ever done what I have done for evangelicals, or religion itself”, Reverend William Barber believes that the evangelicals who support him are not an accurate representation of what it truly means to be evangelical.

“What we see is a fake kind of a religion, a distorted moral narrative, where evangelicalism has been hijacked,” Barber said.

According to Barber, evangelicals should focus on helping the most vulnerable members of society and tackle issues such as poverty.

“If you’re an evangelical Christian, your public policy is not driven by a Republican Party or Democratic Party, a concept of left or a concept of right … It is driven by Jesus and what Jesus stood for on social issues of his time.”

The Census Bureau reports that in 2017, 39.7 million Americans were living below the poverty line. According to the Poor People’s Campaign – where Barber serves as co-chair – when those results are expanded to include people considered to be “low-income”, the number of poor Americans increases to 140 million – or nearly 40 percent of the population.

“Christianity says that what is most important is how you treat the poor, the children, the women, the sick and the least of these. And on all of those accounts, Trump has failed,” Barber said.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, is working to revitalise Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s poor people’s march on Washington 50 years on.

“We believe in our campaign, we have a moment in history that we can really work to change it and it doesn’t take much. Two, three, four percent change in many of these states could fundamentally shift the political calculus,” Barber pointed out.

This week’s special interview is with Reverend William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, and president of the non-profit Repairers of the Breach.