This is the latest letter from the Maronite archbishop in Damascus, Syria. Please keep the people of Syria in your prayers.
Translation from the French by Sarah Sierra, Pauline Volunteer
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 centered around the mother after the beginning of the war (March 15, 2011). It is men that go to war and that oftentimes die. A popular saying says: “a fatherless child is not an orphan.” The family continues to be centered 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 honored their vocation while living under tents and drowning to death. Is there a bigger sacrifice?
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 labor 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 choose to follow the child who emigrates. 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 fewer marriages and fewer baptisms. For the first time, the Church is facing a crucial problem: one in three priests has chosen to leave Damascus to go to 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 sign of 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 face this Apostolic Challenge?
“Fear not, little flock…” Luke 12:32
September 14th 2016 – Feast of the Glorious Cross