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Amid war, museum races to save Syrian culture from rubble

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 27th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A little-heard casualty of war is the wanton destruction of culture, artifacts and sites during battle. More than 100,000 people have been killed as a result of Syria's two-year civil war. Syrians have been left powerless to prevent the destruction of some of their most ancient and cherished sites. New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is now in a race to protect Syrian culture.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - International preservationists have come together in New York City at a time when world leaders at the United Nations nearby try to resolve Syria's civil war. New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art may draw millions of people annually to see its unparalleled collections, but art advocates this week turned into activists begging for the protection of Syria's historical artifacts.
 
"There should not be a choice between saving lives and saving heritage," Irina Bokova, the director general of UNESCO says.
 
The International Council of Museums is spreading of an Emergency Red List that highlights Syrian cultural objects that are at risk of being lost in the ongoing tumult. It is hoped that this list will make the global community more aware of the kinds of artifacts that are being destroyed, looted or smuggled during wartime, such as medieval pottery and metal work.
 
"The value of the artifacts is so great and so important to the people of Syria that we have no choice but to start now," Anne Richard, a U.S. assistant secretary of state says. She says that the world cannot wait until the war's end before joining the fight to protect Syria's heritage.
 
Cultural leaders agree that saving Syria's heritage is a humanitarian necessity. Richard agrees, and points out the important role of culture in quality of life.
 
"It's not enough to just save their lives. We have to save their society. We have to save the things that make their lives worth living," Richard says.
 
These cultural leaders hope it's not too late to preserve some of the world's most ancient wonders, as the bloodshed continues from Damascus to Aleppo and goods and people flee the country.

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