Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bishop fears and prays for his people in Syria

People now say farewell to one another after Sunday Mass, uncertain if they will ever meet again, according to a local bishop in Syria.

The Syrian people are being, “subjected to enormous pressures,” with economic disaster and conflict spread to almost every town.  

People are desperate to leave the country but cannot get visas after embassies have closed in Damascus, said Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus in a statement to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“Syria appears to be locked in a situation of murderous stalemate,” the Maronite-rite Catholic bishop said.  “This inescapable situation is stoking the fears of the faithful.”

The problems of destruction and displacement caused by war are compounded by an economic crisis, most notably economic embargo, inflation, massive currency devaluation and huge unemployment.  

This has particularly affected young people who feel abandoned to their fate by the outside world, which they feel is not doing enough to help them.

“The young people in first-time employment, who have been the victim of mass lay-offs, take a very dim view of this diplomatic embargo, which has only made their plight still worse,” he said. 

“The [young people] think the world no longer wants anything to do with us and is closing the door on us.”

The archbishop also spoke of the problems for refugees from Iraq, who include large numbers of Christians who escaped attacks on the Church and other minority groups.  

Many Middle East commentators fear the Church in Syria may suffer the same fate as in Iraq, stating that if President Assad is overthrown, the Christians could fall victim to attacks from Islamists determined to fill the power vacuum. 

Highlighting the people’s feeling of isolation, the archbishop thanked ACN for its concern and prayers.

“As we enter the season of Lent, we do so in silence, our hands empty, our hearts constricted and our gaze fixed on the risen Christ, who will guide our steps on the path of forgiveness and peace,” he concluded.  “The situation is changing every day.  It is impossible to know what is going to happen. We are living from day to day.”

This weekend, during a meeting of 70 countries who call themselves Friends of Syria, it was proposed that a UN peacekeeping mission should be sent in once there is a ceasefire between the government and rebels.  

The EU announced it is to freeze the assets of Syria.  

The Red Cross and The Syrian Arab Red Crescent entered Homs during the weekend to evacuate the wounded.  

The UN estimates that up to 5,400 civilians have died during the past year and the Syrian Government says that more than 2,000 military and security people were killed.