Syrian bishop describes country’s ‘murderous stalemate’

11.jpgBy John Pontifex
 A SENIOR bishop in Syria has described how the country is “locked in a murderous stalemate” and has told how his people say farewell to one another after Sunday Mass uncertain if they will meet again.
Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus emphasised that the Syrian people were being “subjected to enormous pressures” with economic disaster and conflict spread to almost every town.
In a statement to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Nassar wrote that people were desperate to leave the country but could not obtain visas after the closure of embassies in Damascus.
  He also reported how young people in particular felt abandoned to their fate by the outside world, which they felt was not doing enough to help them.
The archbishop, a Maronite-rite Catholic prelate, stated: “Syria appears to be locked in a situation of murderous stalemate.
“This inescapable situation is stoking the fears of the faithful who say goodbye to each other at the end of each Mass, so uncertain are they of what the future might hold.”
He stressed how the most vulnerable in Syria were suffering the most from the conflict which was “paralysing the country”.
The wrote: “The little [people] are subjected to enormous pressures and sufferings that only grow with the passing of time and the hatred that divides and the poverty that is spreading.”
The problems of destruction and displacement caused by war were, he said, compounded by economic crisis most notably economic embargo, inflation, massive currency devaluation and huge unemployment.
Archbishop Nassar stated: “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 added: “The [young people] think the world no longer wants anything to do with us and is closing the door on us.”
The archbishop stressed 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.”
In an introductory message accompanying the statement, he told ACN projects coordinators that “morale is so low” in Syria before adding: “Thank you very much ACN for your commitment and your effort in comforting us during our suffering.
“The situation is changing every day. It is impossible to know what is going to happen. We are living from day to day.”

Editor’s Notes

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.

Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.

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 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.

While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.

For more information, contact John Pontifex, ACN UK Head of Press and Information 020 8661 5161 or John Newton, ACN Press Officer, 020 8661 5167.