by Mary Sayad
Syria was known as Antioch. Peter, the apostle, evangelized in Antioch. Christ’s believers and followers were first called Christians in Antioch or Syria.
Currently Syria is under attack by rebellious citizens as well as mercenaries sent from countries in the Middle East. Some of the various opposition political groups are Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood. The country and the various revolutionaries are also under attack by its president, Bashar el-Assad.
It is a complicated conflict, which has developed into a civil war within a civil war. Approximately 100,000 Syrian people have died since the beginning of this conflict.The violence is extraordinary, and peace is nowhere in sight.
This otherwise beautiful country has been devastated, and the ancient city of Aleppo has been reduced to rubble.
There are several factions of Muslim groups. Christians have been brutally tortured and killed. Entire Christian families have been viciously put to death. Christian churches have been pilfered, burned and attacked. Besides Christian civilians, Catholic priests and Orthodox bishops have been abducted and murdered.
Many of the Syrian populace has fled to the nearby countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordon for refuge. Tent cities have filled the landscapes of these countries except for Lebanon. Lebanon is a small country and is unable to provide for tent communities. However, most of the camps are occupied by Muslims. Since Christians do not take shelter in these tent camps and are not registered as refugees, they do not receive assistance from the Red Cross, the World Health Organization or UNICEF.
Christian individuals and entire families, who were fortunate, have escaped to Lebanon for asylum. Can you imagine losing your entire livihood, home and possessions? They have lost all in search of safety and are in dire need of bare necessities. In addition, shelter in Lebanon is scarce. Christians receive some help from the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) which is based in Lebanon. However, the organization is inundated with the needs of these misplaced families. You may visit http://www.cnewa.org/ for more in-depth information. All of the local churches in Lebanon are overwhelmed and are doing their utmost to provide shelter and food for these uprooted families.
Please pray for peace. Keep updated with the current Middle Eastern news. To assist our Christian brothers and sisters in this conflict, you may donate to the His Beatitude Patriarch Gregory, for direct distribution to those in need, at the Diocese of Newton, 802 Rifle Camp Rd., Woodland Park, NJ 07424, located in St. Ann’s Melkite Catholic Church.
[hr]Mary Sayad is a former resident of Brooklyn who attended Our Lady of Angels School, Bay Ridge.[hr]