Christians in Syria Are Trying to Flee Country

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 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 (sic) the country.”

“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,” he wrote.

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.

In May, 2011, the archbishop was asked what the future holds for Christians in Syria.

Highlighting the people’s feeling of isolation, the archbishop thanked Aid to the Church in Need 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 Aid to the Church in Need project coordinators that “morale is so low” in Syria before adding:

“Thank you very much Aid to the Church in Need for your commitment and your effort in comforting us during our suffering.

Living Day to Day
“The situation is changing every day. It is impossible to know what is going to happen. We are living from day to day.”

In a recent letter to friends around the world, Archbishop Nassar updated people about the recent holidays.

“The three car bombs which exploded on Dec. 23 and Jan. 6 were about 900 meters from the archbishopric.  The result was that only a few dozen faithful came to the Christmas Mass and no more than 20 children came to catechism,” he wrote.

He also explained that “it is difficuilt to raise the morale of the faithful, the Iraqi refugees and the new Syrian refugees from the combat zone.  Full of fear, the refugees seek a way to leave the country. The confessional has become a ‘wailing wall’ where the faithful weep in silence over their sad destiny.”

He said that a recurring question from his Priests’ Council is “Will we still be here next year?”