Friday, November 28, 2014

Christmas Solitude: a Letter from Syria

The Maronite Archbishop of Damascus writes a sobering report as Advent begins this weekend: "our neighbors do not want us ... "


This fourth year of war in Syria offers the world a chaotic scene. 85 nationalities are already present in the fighting, add to this a coalition of 30 countries expanding violence and death for the “purpose” of fighting terrorism.

Does this heavy war machine choose the Middle East as the land of a third world war?  “A war never stops a war,” said Pope Francis on September 7, 2013. Suffering populations are subjected to violence in the name of God


On  June 10, 2014 (Battle in Mosul in Iraq ) a new international conflict was born.  Islamic religious sentiment broke through the borders of war, countries and people, blurring the battles and conflicts. The Islamic State military may lose the war, but what about the Islamic school of thought that triggers Muslims reaction around the world? How do we account for this reality, analyze the issues and seek to understand and interact with them?

This new source of concern for Near Eastern minorities is a major challenge to inter-religious dialogue, and of tolerance among peoples and religions. The policy of  “burying our heads in the sand” solves nothing in regard to Islamophobia.


The Eastern Christians, a minority living at the crossroads of danger, are struggling to take the road of testimony.
The rise of fanaticism, insecurity, shortages of all kinds and blockades, threaten their presence and reduce their hope.

Despite this tense atmosphere, the small flock of faithful expresses unwavering, courageous and firm faith.
A new relationship to God is affirmed in silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.  They have the rosary in hand and will not easily leave the church as they are in solidarity with the poor and a long litany of martyrs, the seed of Christians. These Heroes of the Faith are the strength of the Church and the horizon of hope.

The roads that lead to Jordan, Iraq and Turkey are closed because of the fighting. The only escape that was open, until last October, was the road to Lebanon. Lebanon, a small country saturated  a million and a half Syrian refugees, began to close its borders of with Syria allowing only emergency cases.

Thus our loyal Damascus feels isolated, condemned to live in danger, and die in their “hole” cut off from their relatives and friends already living in Lebanon. This loneliness adds to the anguish, the bitter cold winter experience, the sad tenor and feeling of neglect.

A lonely Christmas through Syria.
Our neighbors do not want us as we welcome all refugees in the Near East.  Our faithful spend their Christmas celebration in the freezing cold of their “household nativity” relying on the warmth of their faith under the tender gaze of the Holy Family.

 Christmas 2014 + Samir Nassar
 Maronite Archbishop of Damascus

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