Posts Tagged ‘Syria’
For Jesuit Father Nawras Sammour, the ongoing conflict in Syria is both a professional challenge and a personal heartache. As Jesuit Refugee Service’s (JRS) regional director for the Middle East, Fr. Sammour lives in Damascus, Syria. He was born in Aleppo, Syria, where his mother, brother and sister still live.
Tens of thousands of Syrians have died and millions have been displaced in more than two years of fighting between President Bashar Assad’s government and rebels seeking his resignation.
“Sometimes I can’t believe we Syrians have reached that level of violence,” Fr. Sammour said. “I’m shocked. Shocked. We need to step back and realize that we went too far.”
According to Fr. Sammour, the situation is so tense and so divided, particularly among different Muslim groups, that Syria’s small Christian communities may be frightened. But with Christian aid programs and partnerships with others providing assistance, they also enjoy a certain respect as non-partisans looking only to help others.
With the help of funding from a variety of agencies — including the worldwide Caritas network and the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Relief Services — JRS has about 250 paid employees in Syria and another 300 volunteers. They visit displaced families living in shelters, abandoned buildings, mosques, churches and monasteries and provide food and basic necessities.
JRS runs field kitchens that serve 20,000 meals a day. They provide medicine to the chronically ill, operate a clinic in Aleppo and provide psycho-social support to almost 5,000 children, offering them a safe environment where they can play and try to keep up with their school work.
Fr. Sammour said the situation in Syria “is not calming down at all. The tension is worse. People are nervous. Syria is much more fragmented, and fear is much more established in the hearts of people,” he said.
The work with the children, though, may be the seedbed of a better future. The children come from Christian as well as Sunni Muslim and Alawite Muslim families, and the JRS team is earning the trust of their parents.
“That will help with long-term reconciliation,” Fr. Sammour said. [Catholic News Service]
Vatican Radio is reporting that Italian Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio may be expelled from Syria. International news media has reported that the founder of the monastic community at Deir Mar Musa al-Habachi, near Nabak, has been notified by authorities to quit the nation he has called home for 30 years.
Fr. Dall’Oglio is a renowned promoter of dialogue between Christians and Muslims and has been engaged in efforts for internal reconciliation, particularly in the current crisis.
“I’ve been here 30 years, I have worked at the Christian-Muslim dialogue, I have worked to create a monastic community dedicated to the service of harmony between Islam and Christianity, which is a priority worldwide. There are about twenty people in all – brothers and sisters – from different countries: we all learn Arabic, all study Eastern Christianity and Islam. During the latest, painful crisis, we are committed to freedom of opinion, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and we are trying to work, to cooperate for a progressive access to a mature democracy, for the emergence of a civil society, a dialogue that ensures national unity, the protection of diversity and the enhancement of specificity, a democracy without a primacy of one group over others, rather we are trying to nurture the building of a national consensus. This requires tools. We believe, will believe until the end, in reconciliation, through dialogue, negotiations in order to avoid the suffering of the people and build a future other than that of hatred and revenge”.
Last week Syria condemned the vote by the Arab League to impose sanctions against Damascus as a betrayal of Arab solidarity.
By a vote of 19 to 3, the League’s foreign ministers decided to adopt sanctions to pressure Damascus to end its deadly suppression of an 8-month-old uprising against President Bashar Assad.
They include a flight ban on senior members of the Syrian regime, a halt to transactions with Syria’s central bank and a suspension of flights into the country.
The Jesuits in Syria have issued a statement on the difficult conditions there, calling for all parties to reject violence and imploring national unity, dialogue and freedom of expression. The Syrian Jesuits are concerned that the political struggle in Syria is on the verge of disintegrating into a conflict among ethnic and religious factions that is especially threatening to the nation’s Christian minority.
The full text follows below:
Meditation on the present events in Syria
We, Jesuits in Syria are distressed by the recent events that have taken place in this country, a country which is so dear to us. We have met together to pray for this country of ours, to intercede for it and to reflect on what is happening in it. The following text, the fruit of our prayer, we desire to share with you.
Syria, an agent of civilization
Syria, a country of multiple civilizations which arrived one after another on our land and have enriched its patrimony. A great part of this richness comes from the interrelation and the harmony between the peoples of a different culture, religion and spirituality. Together, these peoples have formed a unity which we are proud of and to which we hold fast. This lays on us a grave responsibility to preserve this grand heritage.
The history of our country is distinguished by its hospitality and its openness to others, whosoever they be. The spirit of hospitality, the search for unity in the difference, as also all the efforts leading to the formation of the national unity are, without doubt, at the basis of the Syrian society and form a beautiful and lively mosaic.