Syria, a country in agony, is ‘living an anticipated Lenten fast’

MARONITE ARCHBISHOP Samir Nassar of Damascus, the Syrian capital, has warned that the continuity of humanitarian aid projects within the country is in jeopardy and that the economic situation in the country is growing worse. “The present crisis, which is different from what we experienced during the days of the war, has compelled people to live a sort of anticipated Lenten fast. Simply managing to put food on the table has become a daily nightmare.” This was part of the message the archbishop sent to Aid to the Church in Need.

Owing to the economic crisis, which is a consequence not only of the civil war but also of the economic embargo imposed Syria by the Western powers, ordinary people are having to cope with rationing of various basic essentials. “The shortage of fuel, domestic gas supplies and electricity has plunged the most vulnerable—the fragile, the sick, children and the elderly—into darkness coupled with deadly freezing temperatures,” Archbishop Nassar wrote.

Syrian Christian children

For her part Sister Maria Lúcia Ferreira, of the congregation of the Sisters of Unity in Antioch, confirmed that “things are getting much worse.” “For example, gas can only be exchanged in return for vouchers, and each family is allowed just one gas bottle per month,” she said, adding that the situation is so serious for some families that they can “barely afford to buy food and there is a shortage of fuel for heating the houses; the electricity supply is interrupted almost every day and people’s money is worth less and less each month.”

Sister Maria said that the current situation is the crisis in neighboring Lebanon, since much of the funding that used to come via that country is now blocked. Archbishop Nassar concurs that Lebanon’s banking crisis is hampering the flow of humanitarian aid sent to Syria by various countries. What the Archbishop describes as the “road of Simon of Cyrene”—in other words, the expression of solidarity with those who are carrying the cross—has been “blocked without compassion,” resulting in an overall worsening of conditions throughout Syria.

Among other things, the crisis in Lebanon has resulted in the freezing of the accounts of the Syrian people, including both business and private accounts, the sources from where from where what Archbishop Nassar describes as the “movements of charity” previously originated. According to the archbishop, the present situation has also made things harder for the Church, which is now nothing more than “a Wall of Lamentation where one comes to weep, to cry for help, to be silent and to look for some consolation—a place to live out the passion of Christ before Holy Week.”

—Maria Lozano