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Church bells around the world toll for civilian casualties in Aleppo

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HELSINKI (Reuters) - Churches across the world are joining a Helsinki parish in ringing their bells daily to commemorate civilians killed in the battle for the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The bell tolls started on Oct. 12 at the Lutheran parish of Kallio in Helsinki, following the intensified Russian and Syrian bombing of besieged rebel-held parts of Aleppo.

“After reading the news that day, of Aleppo, we decided to ring funeral bells at 5 p.m. to remember the death. First I just asked a few local churches to join us,” Teemu Laajasalo, vicar of the Kallio parish told Reuters.

Soon hundreds of churches nationwide, and across Europe, joined in, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland set up a “Bells for Aleppo” website to list the participants.

According to the site, more than 500 churches from 20 countries, including Britain, United States and Australia, have signed up. The bells will continue to ring daily until October 24, the United Nations Day.

“We all see the devastating events in Aleppo, but at the same time feel powerless to help, because of the complexity of the situation. With the bells, we want to make our voices heard, and give hope for better future,” Laajasalo said.

In Finnish churches, funeral bells are traditionally tolled when the body is carried out of the church after the service.

Last time that churches around the country joined to ring bells was at the funeral of Finland’s former president Urho Kaleva Kekkonen in 1986.

Reporting by Tuomas Forsell, editing by Jussi Rosendahl and Dominic Evans