|The Angel helping Hezekiah in the struggle against |
a Syrian despot. From the Walters Art Museum.
Syria: A fourth Lent spent in war?
(1) A CHAOTIC SITUATION:
A fourth year Lent spent in war will mean pain and violence. The Geneva II peace conference1 hasn’t change anything at the moment. New streams of refugees come to our parishes exceeding our resources. Our social and pastoral action is primarily focused on support of the affected families. Here is a highlight of our weaknesses, limits and many challenges:
- 150 000 families are deprived of their father.
- 2 million dwellings are destroyed.
- 2 million families without shelter
- 12 million refugees
- 3 million in the neighboring countries,
- 9 million are displaced in their own country.
- 2 million students without school.
- The economy is in ruins; our currency has devalued by 300%.
- There is growing violence every day: anguish and bitterness.
- An embargo chokes everyone, especially the children, the poor, the hospitals and medical sector.
- The list of the suffering is endless
(2) CAN WE TAKE THIS ROUTE?
The Christians of Syria accounted for 4.5% of the population before the war. What will it be after the war? 47 churches have closed; two priests and a nun have been martyred. Two bishops, three priests and 12 nuns were abducted. The Christians of Syria share the same pain of their fellow citizens. How do we reassure this little flock inhabited by fear? Could these Christians in this ancient Biblical land which lit the flame of the Gospel, leave?
This little flock draws in the faith of St Paul converted and baptized in Damascus, and on the strength of his testimony. We celebrated the conversion of St Paul on January 25th at the chapel of Ananias, and June 29th we celebrate Liturgy at the Chapel St. Paul at the wall of the old city where Paul escaped in a basket (Act 9.25). Will we be more courageous than St Paul?
(3) A REGARD FOR HOPE:
Facing despair the Church looks for hope. From this abyss of suffering she sees bright spots:
(a) The mutual assistance and solidarity expressed spontaneously by poor families who open their doors to impoverished refugees.
(b) There are new initiatives for dialogue and reconciliation between enemies.
(c) A resurgence of faith strengthens our communities. The Gospel is our reference and inspiration. The faithful come to mass, even under the threat of bombs, and devote much time to the prayer and Eucharistic adoration.
d) An abundance of priestly vocations are flourishing, despite the decline in the birth rate.
(e) Religious, nuns and lay people animate centers of psychological support for children and young people traumatized by violence.
f) A new strategy for living, based on the Social teaching of the Church, is being implemented through ecumenical dialogue involving all groups in this country at war.
(g) A family pastoral mission has development that is based on listening and accompaniment. Without the family there is no Church.
All of these are softened by the gaze of Mary, Mother of God, OUR LADY OF PEACE.
"HAPPY THE PEACEMAKERS"
Maronite Archbishop of Damascus