Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus writes in a statement to the Church in Need:
1) Globalisation of the crisis: From a small demonstration in the south of Syria on 15 March, 2011, the crisis has spread, like an oil stain, to almost every Syrian town. This has been a rebellion without a face, driven by the Internet and the electronic media. From a local crisis to a regional crisis, after one year Syria has been transformed into a place of international conflict in which political, military and economic interests are determining the future of the country... leaving the door open to violence and extreme suffering.
2) Facing a stalemate: This conflict seems to be running out of control. On the one side is a muscular central power, bent on holding sway, and on the other a determined popular uprising that refuses to subside or put down its arms, despite the intensity of the violence. In this conflict, which is paralysing the country – with an economic embargo, inflation, a 60% devaluation of the local currency, galloping unemployment, destruction, displacement of populations and thousands of victims – it is the little people who suffer. They 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, in the absence of anycharitable and humanitarian relief movements. Syria appears to be locked in a situation of murderous stalemate.
3) Fear and anguish: This inescapable situation is stoking the fears of the faithful, who say goodbye to each other at the end of every Mass, so uncertain are they of a continuing future... The closure of the embassies in Damascus has made it impossible to obtain a visa and further reduced the possibility of leaving the country, above all for the Iraqi refugees, of whom there are many still living here. The young people in first-time employment, who have been the victims of mass layoffs, take a very dim view of this diplomatic embargo, which has only made their plight still worse.
The world no longer wants anything to do with us and is closing the door on us, they think. This same anxiety is affecting even the priests, some of whom are quietly seeking more tranquil skies. What will become of the Church in Syria without them? The adventure with Christ is certainly not made any easier.
4) The safe refuge: In the midst of this great turmoil and sharp division, the victims of this crisis have found their only refuge in the family.... Without doubt the family is proving to be the sole safety net, a place of life and welcome that cares, protects, consoles, shares and defends with love and affection, in a marvellous spirit of solidarity...
This basic cell absorbs the shocks, and to it the uprooted, the wounded, the unemployed all return. The family is the fortress in this chaotic void and the place that guarantees the survival of society and of the Church...
And so, faced with this crisis, this same Church has chosen to focus all its efforts and its prayers on the family, by supplying it with all the assistance and support at her disposal. What a grace it is to be able to rely, during this Calvary, on the family – damaged and vulnerable indeed, but remaining united, close-knit, solid, prayerful and faith-filled. We are so far from an early end to this crisis and the storm seems to be blowing more fiercely than ever as we approach the second year. There is still no light at the end of the tunnel. Where is Syria heading? 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.
+ Samir Nassar
Maronite Archbishop of Damascus
21st February 2012