Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar in Lenten message contrasts the situation in war-torn Syria with Gospel incident of Apostles addressing a sleeping Jesus
The Maronite Catholic Archbishop of Damascus in his message for Lent has emotionally contrasted the situation in war-torn Syria with the Gospel incident of Apostles addressing a sleeping Jesus while their boat was overwhelmed by waves.
Lent this year begins February 15 in the liturgical calendar of the Maronite Church.
“It seems that the war in Syria is the most cruel seen in the world since the Second World war. With the diminishment of violence, an economic disaster has overtaken the people” said Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damas (Damascus) in his Lenten message, Fides reported.
The archbishop in his message points out that:
- 950,000 families are living with death;
- More than 200,000 people have disappeared – among them two bishops and four priests;
- 13,000,000 refugees from different areas who live in misery and uncertainty;
- 95,000 people with amputated hands and feet or paralysis living with psychological and physical ailments;
- 2,500,000 dwellings damaged or destroyed.
“The situation is such that the people are choked by blockades and sanctions, thus limiting the help they can receive from outside, rampant inflation and COVID-19 are doing the rest”, said Archbishop Nassar.
Destroyed by war and suffocated by economic sanctions, Syria is like a ship sinking in a storm. And to the disciples of Christ who are in Syria, in this state, the same anguished words come to mind that the Apostles addressed to Jesus, he said.
“Faced with these scenes of desolation, little ones and the poor cry out to the Lord as they try to heal their wounds: ‘Master, don’t you care that we are about to perish?’” the archbishop said.
It is the same disturbing question the Apostles ask Jesus in the Gospel of Mark when their boat is overwhelmed by the waves in the Sea of Galilee while he sleeps, Archbishop Nassar pointed out.
The gospel story continues with Jesus who wakes up, calms the storm, and then asks his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mk, 4:40)
The Maronite Church is an Eastern Catholic sui iuris church in full communion with the pope and the Catholic Church. The Maronites derive their name from the Syriac Christian saint Maron.
There is a small Maronite Christian community in Syria, diminishing with every year. In 2017, the Annuario Pontificio reported that 3,300 people belonged to the Archeparchy of Aleppo, 15,000 in the Archeparchy of Damascus and 45,000 in the Eparchy of Lattaquié.
Pope Francis has often invited everyone to pray for “beloved and martyred Syria”.
Syria’s civil war began in 2011 as a peaceful uprising against the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad.
It has since escalated with groups from all over the world represented at the frontline — shattering the lives of Syrians, destroying their cities and becoming the world’s most terrible place of ongoing warfare and where over half of all Syrians have fled their homes.
Amid this dramatic situation faced by the whole Syrian population, Christian leaders have often sounded the alarm over the local Church’s survival.
The Maronite church has expressed alarm over its “collapse” because of the growing number of Syrians going into exile.
Last month a group of Church leaders and international figures called on U.S. President Joe Biden to lift economic sanctions imposed on the Syrian people and “to help Syrians alleviate a humanitarian crisis that threatens to trigger a new wave of instability in the Middle East.”
“We wish to lose no time approaching you for an urgent response to the severe humanitarian crisis in Syria,” they wrote January 21.
Western powers such as the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions so as to encourage the Syrian government to refrain from actions that repress the civilian population and to participate in a negotiated political settlement for a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Syria, as a country, was noted for its accepting all faiths and a diversity in its cultural heritage. The Jewish community once flourished in this country and so did 13 Christian denominations, living and working alongside their mostly Muslim neighbours.
Reproduced with permission from La Croix International.