The Syrian revolt began on March 15, 2011. Nearly a year later, this popular uprising shows no sign of abating, despite violent reprisals. Archbishop Antoine Audo, S.J., President of Caritas Syria, has informed us of the high level of insecurity in affected areas (Aleppo and Homs). He also reports that Caritas organizations in Jordan and Lebanon are responding to the basic needs of refugees fleeing Syria at this difficult time.
Finally, he shares with us the Lent message (below) delivered by Most Reverend Samir Nassar, Maronite Archbishop of Damascus: “As it enters its second year, the crisis is far from coming to a close. Rather, the storm is getting stronger. The end of the tunnel remains out of sight. Where is Syria headed? Thus, we begin Lent in silence, with empty hands, heavy hearts and our eyes turned upon CHRIST REBORN, who guides our steps along the path of Forgiveness and Peace.”
WHERE IS SYRIA HEADED?
By Samir Nassar, Maronite Archbishop of Damascus
1) A CRISIS GONE GLOBAL:
What started as a small demonstration in the southern part of Syria, on March 15, 2011, has now turned into a crisis engulfing every city in the country. This is a faceless revolt, brought to life by the Internet and other computer-based media, and supported by new “phantom” communication technologies that eschew the traditional language of power, and which imposes its new leadership.
Faced with a crisis that has grown from local to regional proportions in a little under a year, Syria has become an international conflict zone where political, military and economic stakes are shaping the future of the country, all the while holding the solution hostage and opening the door to violence and great suffering.
2) AT AN IMPASSE:
The conflict is headed into the unknown. On one side, a strong, centralized power that refuses to let go; on the other, a determined popular uprising that will not alleviate or surrender, despite the intensity of the violence. This conflict, which is paralyzing the country, is defined by: economic sanctions, inflation, devaluation of the local currency (-60%), rising unemployment, destruction, displaced populations and victims by the thousands… Ordinary people are subjected to enormous pressure and intense suffering that only grow as time goes by. Divisive hatred and misery continue to swell in the absence of acts of compassion and humanitarian relief.
Syria is seemingly headed towards a deadly impasse.
3) FACED WITH ANGUISH:
The current deadlock is fueling the anguish of the faithful who, at the end of each mass, bid their final farewells, so uncertain is their future. The embassy closings in Damascus have made it impossible to obtain visas, thus significantly curtailing the possibility of leaving the country, especially for the numerous Iraqi refugees still on site. Unemployed youth, who have lost their first jobs to massive layoffs, do not look kindly upon the diplomatic embargo that is feeding their distress: “The rest of the world is closing its doors to us; it no longer wants us”.
Similar concerns are heard among priests who are discreetly seeking clearer skies. If they leave, what will become of the Syrian Church? The journey with Christ is fraught with difficulty.
4) A LIFELINE:
In this time of great torment and division, families become the sole refuge for victims of the crisis. One’s family becomes a unique lifeline, a welcoming haven that heals, protects, consoles, shares and defends with love and affection, in a splendid show of solidarity…
This most basic of units protects against shocks and welcomes the displaced, the wounded, and the unemployed. Faced with empty chaos, the family acts as a shield that ensures the survival of society and Church…
This is why, in the face of such tragedy, the Church has chosen to focus its attention and prayers on families, by providing them with all available help and support. True grace can be found in surviving this ordeal through a family that, although weakened, remains united, close-knit, supportive, pious and faithful.
As it enters its second year, the crisis is far from coming to a close. Rather, the storm is getting stronger. The end of the tunnel remains out of sight. Where is Syria headed?
Thus, we begin Lent in silence, with empty hands, heavy hearts and our eyes turned upon CHRIST REBORN, who guides our steps along the path of Forgiveness and Peace.