A Lent of tears
"How can Syria escape from this torture?"
By Archbishop Samir
In six years of war the face of Syria has been completely
A large wasteland of ruins, pulverized buildings, burned out
homes, neighborhoods turned into ghost towns, villages razed to the ground … and
more than 12 million Syrians (half the population) don’t have roofs over their
They form the largest mass of refugees since World War II.
Several million have left the country in search of a kinder environment. Many
are depending on hand-outs in miserable camps, many have drowned, and many
stand in long lines at embassies. They have become a nomadic people in search
of a land that will welcome them. How can Syria escape from this torture?
Families, the bulwark that saved the Church and the nation,
have been brutally shaken up. It is almost rare to come across a family
entirely intact. The violence has dispersed these foundation stones… some are
in their graves, others in exile, or in prison or at the front lines.
It is a very sad situation that has sent the few that remain
into a life of mendacity, depression and anxiety.
Engaged couples, separated by the exodus, the emigration of
one of the partners or enlistment in the military, are unable to marry—with the
grave difficulty of finding adequate shelter finishing off remaining hopes.
An asset for the future is collapsing.
How can we continue on our way without families or with
Children are the most fragile. They have paid dearly for
this pitiless violence. UNESCO reports that more than 3 million children are
not able to go to school; priority is given to their physical survival; those
that still attend school have seen the level of teaching drop considerably
because of the great overcrowding of those schools that are still functioning
and because so many teachers have fled. The educational system is falling apart
Centers that offer psychological support are overrun and
overwhelmed by the gravity of the traumas and psychological scars.
How can we restore the spirits of these children damaged by
violence and scenes of barbarism?
Parishes under threat
Parishes that have seen the number of faithful drops sharply
along with a decline in pastoral activities are depriving priests of their
support network, leaving them without essential human and spiritual support.
The Church in Damascus has seen a third of its priests (27 pastors) flee, a
real blow that has further weakened the place and role of the Christian
minority that was already in decline.
Other priests who are still staying put are not feeling
secure and are contemplating their eventual departure.
In this waiting mode, they provide socio-humanitarian
support to stricken families.
How can we remedy this alarming bloodletting in terms of
priests and faithful?
Can we imagine a Church without priests?
Between bread and
Syrians are no longer looking for freedom. They are waging a
daily battle to find bread, water, gas, fuel that gets rarer by the day.
Electrical black outs, frequent and long-lasting, are darkening our evenings
and curbing social life.
There is an ongoing search for brothers, for parents and
friends who have disappeared—a search conducted with a great deal of discretion,
worry and hope.
Finding a humble place to live, some shelter in a country of
ruins has become the impossible dream of families and above all of young
Between a battle for freedom and the search for bread—what road
must shall choose?
This small Syrian people live out this devastation with much
bitterness that can be seen in their silent looks and in streams of tears.
This bitter Lent of 2017 present us with a time in the
desert, to reconsider the Church’s engagement amidst our suffering faithful in
order to better guide them toward the Resurrected Christ, Light of the world,
Savior of men, who tells them: “Come to me, all you are weary and burdened”
Archbishop Nassar is
the Maronite bishop of Damascus
Destruction in Aleppo, Syria; ACN photo