Syria: Will we become the Guardians of Rocks, Pebbles and Stones? - Archbishop Nassar
In a letter to Aid to the Church in Need, the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, writes about his country’s suffering people.
(Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus © Aid to the Church in Need)
1) Shaken safeguard
Six years of war have finally shaken the Syrian society’s safeguard: THE FAMILY, which was the primary cell that absorbed the shocks and misfortunes of the never ending violence and that saved the country and the Church until 2014. Insecurity, intolerance, violence and chaotic destructions have uprooted more than two million families. Deprived of shelter and spread a bit all over, how can said families possibly endure such a heavy Calvary?
2) Heroic mothers
The family is quite frequently centred around the mother after the beginning of the war (March 15th 2011). It is men that go to war and that often times die. A popular saying says: “a fatherless child is not an orphan.” The family continues to be centred around the mother, who ensures the unity and survival of the household. In this long and heavy sufferance, these heroic mothers live amidst misery and tears. They’ve honoured their vocation while living under tents and drowning to death. Is there a bigger sacrifice?
3) Exodus of the Youth
The general mobilization, decreed on October 2015, invites young men, younger than 45 years old, to join the military service. This decision disturbed all those families that weren’t able to leave the country and were waiting in situ for this endless war to end. This age bracket is the spinal cord of the economic activities that remain. These youths disappeared quickly. Some of them decided to join the barracks, while others decided to escape, which meant an irreversible clandestine emigration, which in turn destabilized the labour market and the modest family life deprived of resources. Is there a future for a community without young people?
4) Weakened Church
The effects of the above-mentioned changes weakened the Church. Families usually chose to follow the child that emigrated. This explains the accelerated exodus of families and the diminishing number of parishioners in all parishes. In addition, young women have to marry Muslim polygamists because there are no young men left, this causes a demographic unbalance. Hence less marriages and less baptisms. For the first time, the Church is facing a crucial problem: one in three priests has chosen to leave Damascus towards more peaceful countries. How can we retain priests in Damascus? What will our Church become without priests?
5) Guardians of rocks/pebbles/stones
The ghost towns in the north of Syria are a source of inspiration for what we might become… How can we avoid becoming guardians of rocks, pebbles and stones? It is up to the Christians of the East to rethink their vocations and live like the little Primitive Minority Church: without any guarantees or protection. Will we be able to erase this Apostolic Challenge?
“Fear not, little flock…” Luke, 12:32
September 14th 2016 – Feast of the Glorious Cross
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has been helping the Church in Syria to provide the needy with food, clothing, accommodation and medication, as well as help for Christian refugees in neighbouring countries. Since March 2011 when the conflict began, ACN has provided over $15.5 million in aid for Syria – its largest ongoing aid package.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
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