Hundreds of churches across the world are ringing funeral bells to draw attention to the suffering Syrian city of Aleppo. 

The campaign started in the parish of Kallio in Finland, the idea of Teemu Laajasalo, a local Lutheran vicar. According to Laajasalo, the project was born out of anger and sadness at the ongoing carnage in Aleppo, where tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee, and tens of thousands more are under siege. 

“The situation in Syria and Aleppo is politically complex, but morally simple,” Laajasalo says. “Killing children and civilians is wrong. Hospitals and schools are being bombed, and little children are being killed. So something has to be done.”  

For Laajasalo, that meant an awareness campaign through the church.

Since then, the idea of using bells to protest the fighting has spread rapidly across Finland — hundreds of churches there are taking part — and beyond. Last week, Uppsala Cathedral in neighboring Sweden announced that it would join the project. A church in Germany joined in on Tuesday. Bells are ringing in the United States, too.

My church, First Congregational Church, UCC, in Waterville, Maine USA is participating in #BellsForAleppo

— Ray Phillips (@RayPhillips207) October 18, 2016

Laajasalo said he has heard from 300 churches on four continents asking to take part, including in South Africa and Australia.

Aleppo has suffered for years from Syria's civil war, and the rebel-held eastern part of the city has been under siege and heavy bombardment since June.

The city, which was once Syria's most populous, has become a symbol of the civil war's tragedy. On Monday, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, warned that it could be gone within months: "Between now and December, if we cannot find a solution, Aleppo will not be there anymore."

For Laajasalo, ringing church bells is about more than just raising the profile of the Syrian crisis. It is also about solidarity with those in danger and the symbolism of bell-ringing.

“These are funeral bells,” he says, “and funeral bells are normally tolled when the body is carried out. For those in Aleppo, it is nonstop funerals. So when you hear these bells, you don’t know how to take that."

Each church taking part will ring funeral bells every day at 5 p.m. for the 12 days leading up to Oct. 24, United Nations Day

From PRI's The World ©2016 PRI